JPMorgan Chase (JPM) was forced to delay the release of a statement concerning an MF Global account thought to be containing missing customer money amid questions from the lead regulator investigating the matter, FOX Business has learned.
Discussions between JPMorgan executives and officials at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission resulted in a one-hour delay on Friday afternoon in a JPMorgan statement about the nature of the account and whether it was related to around $600 million in customer money that mysteriously vanished from the firm during its tumultuous final days, people with knowledge of the matter say.
People inside JPMorgan initially downplayed the significance of the $650 million account, saying it was well known to investigators looking for the missing money, and thus was likely to be unrelated to the customer funds still unaccounted for.
But in a statement issued late Friday, the firm said while the funds were known to investigators, it does not have “any information as to whether any such balances are related in any way to the ‘missing’ customer funds referred to in recent press accounts.”
Among the group of regulators and officials working for MF Global’s bankruptcy trustee, James Giddens, who are investigating the circumstances behind MF Global’s bankruptcy, finding the missing money has become a top priority. By late Sunday afternoon, people inside this group continue to doubt that the JPMorgan account represents the missing money, though these people still haven’t ruled out that at least some of the missing $600 million is at JPMorgan.
One person close to the investigation said JPMorgan backed away from a more definitive statement about the money: that it was likely unrelated to the missing funds after its deliberations with the CFTC.
A Spokesman for the CFTC didn’t return a call for comment. A JPMorgan spokesman had no comment on the matter.
A spokesman for the bankruptcy trustee told FOX Business: “Our forensic investigators are in field this weekend and have begun a thorough and exhaustive investigation including questions about the assets at JPMorgan." Pressure on regulators to make a definitive statement on the JPMorgan account will certainly mount this week, though people close to the investigation into the missing funds don’t expect a quick answer.
One problem is the disorganized nature of MF Global’s bookkeeping, first discovered by brokerage firms Blackrock and Evercore during MF Global’s final hours. MF Global filed for bankruptcy last Monday and since that time it’s been the focus of numerous regulatory investigations into pre-bankruptcy statements made by top company officials, such as former chief executive Jon Corzine, as well as the whereabouts of the missing customer funds.
But that came after a week of frenzied activity where disclosures of the firm’s exposure to the sovereign debt of financially strapped European countries, namely Italy and Spain, caused customers to pull lines of credit, essentially forcing the firm into liquidation.
MF Global then began to try and sell parts of itself to various Wall Street firms, but was forced to seek bankruptcy protection after due diligence being conducted by Blackrock and Evercore showed the embattled derivatives company had commingled customer money with funds used to trade and finance its operations.
The discovery scuttled a deal to sell its futures-clearing business because securities laws prohibit the commingling of customer money with other funds used to finance trades and the daily operations of brokerage firms.
FOX Business was first to report that the preliminary conclusions of Evercore and Blackrock: That the missing money was the result of sloppy bookkeeping rather than outright fraud.
But that hasn’t stopped federal investigators from looking into the matter. In addition to the CFTC, both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York are looking into the events leading up to MF Global’s demise.
Amid the regulatory scrutiny, Corzine both stepped down from his post as Chief Executive Officer and hired well-known white-collar criminal attorney Andrew Levander.
Neither Levander nor MF Global returned telephone calls for comment.
Charles Gasparino joined FOX Business Network (FBN) in February 2010 as Senior Correspondent.