Corzine Tries to Delay Congressional Hearings on Firm's Collapse

Jon Corzine isn’t getting off to a good start with congressional investigators after his attorney spent the past two weeks seeking a delay in upcoming hearings and forcing subpoenas to compel his testimony at upcoming hearings into the demise of the brokerage firm he ran, MF Global, the FOX Business Network has learned.

Corzine’s attorney Andrew Levander angered staffers in as many as three committees investigating the firm’s Nov. 1 bankruptcy and its impact in the securities markets. As much as $1.2 billion in client money remains missing from MF Global, and investigators are examining whether senior officials at the brokerage improperly co-mingled the customer accounts with money used for operations during its tumultuous final days, people with knowledge of the matter tell FOX Business.

The committees have asked Corzine voluntarily testify at their upcoming hearings this month on these and other issues surrounding the bankruptcy, which faces both civil and criminal investigations by the likes of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the U.S. Justice Department.

But Levander attempted to persuade the leaders of both the House and Senate Agriculture committees and the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investigations to postpone their hearings until sometime in January. Levander cited scheduling conflicts and the need to prepare for a public grilling as the reason he and his client needed more time.

But his insistence to postpone the hearings angered some lawmakers and their staffers who believed Levander was merely trying to delay the hearings indefinitely.

Since then, they have vowed to force Corzine to appear through subpoena if he doesn’t show up on his own. So far, the House Agriculture committee has issued a subpoena to Corzine for its scheduled hearings on Thursday. People close to the former New Jersey governor say it’s still unclear if he will exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination and decline to answer lawmakers' questions.

Both the Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investigations will hold votes in the coming days to determine whether to issue a subpoena to compel Corzine’s testimony as well. Both committees are likely to issues subpoenas for Corzine’s testimony if he continues to ignore their request to testify voluntarily, people close to the matter say.

Through a spokesman, Levander declined comment. A person close to him tells FOX Business that Levander offered to have Corzine testify without a subpoena if the committees pushed the hearings to January. Committee staffers say that response came only after they had established hearing dates.

Meanwhile, Levander and his client appear in a tight spot as the hearings into MF Global’s fall heat up. In addition to angering lawmakers, Levander has to decide whether he should allow Corzine to give testimony or simply plead the Fifth. Failing to answer questions will be an embarrassment to Corzine, who before he served as governor, was a U.S. senator from the Garden State.

But answering questions could also open up Corzine to a perjury trap with prosecutors seizing on inconsistencies in his testimony rather than on anything related to the circumstances behind MF Global’s implosion.

“The trick is to figure out how Corzine can say something—anything—so he won’t have to plea the Fifth but doesn’t get himself in trouble,” said one prominent white collar attorney who had worked as a senior investigator at the Securities and Exchange Commission, but is barred from commenting because he represents a party in the MF Global bankruptcy.