Published October 22, 2012
NEW YORK – Jon Corzine's lawyers say allegations that he fraudulently ran MF Global Holdings Ltd make "no sense" and that a lawsuit seeking to hold him and others responsible for the futures brokerage's bankruptcy must be thrown out.
Corzine, former colleagues and several banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, filed papers on Friday night to dismiss investor litigation over MF Global's collapse. The company's Oct. 31, 2011, bankruptcy was Wall Street's biggest meltdown since 2008.
Plaintiffs led by the Virginia Retirement System and the province of Alberta, Canada, have accused MF Global in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan of inflating its ability to manage risk, obscuring risks from a big bet on European sovereign debt and improperly accounting for deferred tax assets.
But lawyers for Corzine, MF Global's former chairman and chief executive officer, said there was no securities fraud. They said the allegations merely suggested that Corzine mismanaged the company, was too optimistic, or failed to predict a liquidity squeeze prompted in part by credit rating downgrades.
Corzine's lawyers also said the former New Jersey governor's ownership of 441,960 MF Global shares, including some bought in August 2011 when the exposure to European sovereign debt had peaked, showed that he had no motive to commit securities fraud.
"Plaintiffs have not alleged any facts from which it could be inferred that Mr. Corzine knew prior to October 30, 2011 that MF Global would not be able to survive," Corzine's lawyers wrote. "Plaintiffs' theory that Mr. Corzine had fraudulent intent or participated in a fraud makes no sense."
The bank defendants, in a separate court filing, contended that MF Global's business strategy and risks were fully disclosed in public filings.
Salvatore Graziano and Jonathan Plasse, lawyers who represent the lead plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Virginia Retirement System said it had managed about $53.1 billion of pension fund and other assets as of June 30. Alberta, through its Alberta Investment Management Corp unit, said it oversaw about C$70 billion (US$70.4 billion) of pension fund and government assets.
Their lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, covers investors in MF Global common stock, convertible bonds and senior notes between May 20, 2010, and Nov. 21, 2011.
Among the other defendants are former MF Global Chief Financial Officers J. Randy MacDonald and Henri Steenkamp, seven former independent directors, and units of Bank of America Corp , Citigroup Inc, Deutsche Bank AG and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.
The U.S. Department of Justice and Commodity Futures Trading Commission are also investigating MF Global's collapse, which has left an estimated $1.6 billion of customer funds missing.
Criminal charges stemming from the collapse are unlikely, and civil cases are the more likely outcome, people familiar with the matter have said.
The case is DeAngelis et al v. Corzine et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-07866.