Former MF Global chief Jon Corzine on Thursday denied an allegation that he knew the now-bankrupt brokerage firm used customer money to lend to a European affiliate.
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In his third appearance in eight days before lawmakers probing MF Global's demise, Corzine immediately sought to address questions raised after he had testified at a hearing on Tuesday.
"I don't know the source of the suggestion but let me be clear," Corzine told a House Financial Services oversight subcommittee on Thursday. "I did not instruct anyone to lend customer funds to MF Global or any of its affiliates, nor was I told that anyone had done so."
On Tuesday, CME Group Executive Chairman Terrence Duffy told a Senate committee that a CME auditor participated in a phone call during which an MF Global employee indicated that Corzine knew the firm used customer money to lend $175 million to its European affiliate.
Duffy told the Senate Agriculture Committee that CME, one of MF Global's regulators, has provided the information to the Justice Department and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Under questioning at the House hearing about Duffy's charge, a slightly exasperated looking Corzine said the final days of MF Global were hectic and he could not provide a blow-by-blow account of every part of the phone call in question.
"First of all we were operating very late in the day and after many, many days," Corzine told the committee. "I'd also say I stepped in and out of that meeting on a very regular basis to consult with counsel and also to speak to the board."
He added: "I did not in any way know about the use of customer funds on any loan or transfer."
Seeking to explain the confusion over the use of customer funds, Corzine said that Duffy may have been referring to a situation regarding overdrafts at JPMorgan Chase.
Corzine said that on Oct. 28 JPMorgan contacted him and other MF Global employees about "certain overdrafts" and asked whether funds had been transferred in compliance with CFTC rules.
He said he had no personal knowledge about the issue, so he asked senior people in MF Global's back office in Chicago and in the firm's legal department to become directly involved.
Corzine, a former Democratic senator, governor of New Jersey, and one-time leader of Goldman Sachs, once again apologized on Thursday for any harm MF Global's failure may have caused customers.
During a break in Thursday's hearing for a House vote, Corzine and MF Global Chief Operating Officer Bradley Abelow were served with legal papers.
"I haven't even looked at it yet," said a lawyer accompanying Abelow. "Some kind of civil suit."
MF Global filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31 after it was forced to reveal that it had made a $6.3 billion bet on European sovereign debt, spooking investors and customers.
The ensuing search for missing customer money has sent reverberations through the farm belt and trading floors, and has attracted the attention of the FBI and federal prosecutors.
A trustee liquidating the firm has estimated the customer funds shortfall could be as high as $1.2 billion.
Democrats and Republicans have sought to make political hay out of MF Global's demise with Republicans questioning whether Corzine's ties to Democrats led regulators to go easy on his firm.
"Is the Democrat answer for regulation leading us to a situation where political pull and political interference intercedes," said Edward Royce, a California Republican.
Democrats in turn accused Republicans of underfunding agencies, such as the CFTC, who are responsible for policing the markets where MF Global participated.
"You cannot logically and sensibly be for regulation in the particular when you have opposed regulation in general," said Barney Frank, the leading Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.