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MF Global: “This Was a Massive Theft”

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 30, 2012 7:56 AM |

Six months and counting.

The lives of countless numbers of families and individuals are likely forever changed by what transpired at MF Global. Yet there remains no real accounting nor full retribution for the fiasco which unfolded within the walls of the firm that traced its roots to the late 1700s.

Certainly we can expect that trustees and regulators will put forth some thousand page reports trying to detail the minute by minute demise of MF Global. Do you think those reports will mean anything to the lives of the people impacted? I don’t. Why? How do you recapture trust? When there is NO real trust, there is NO real justice, and NO real closure. It is that simple.

Who in America would not agree right now to grant Edith O’Brien, the junior executive in MF Global’s back office, full and total immunity so we may learn even more details about this travesty? Where is the pressure in Washington to make that happen? By not granting Ms. O’Brien immunity, our supposed political leaders have shown their true colors — and they are NOT red, white , and blue.

Utilizing the language of “the street”, what do those in the Chicago trading pits think happened at MF Global? As so succinctly stated in today’s Financial Times article, MF Global Leaves Industry Scarred:

John Roe, leader of the Commodity Customer Coalition, a customer group, and an introducing broker at BT Trading in Chicago, a firm that had all $15m or so of its client funds at MF Global, says his members would be “beyond dejected” if there were no prosecution. “There should be a criminal consequence,” he says. “The system itself is at risk if there isn’t.”

“Someone at MF Global made the decision to swipe customer money,” Mr Roe adds. “They need to pay a price for that. Otherwise, our members will feel the marketplace isn’t what they thought it was.”

“This was a massive theft,” says Jeff Carter, a Chicago futures trader and blogger. “The futures industry battles the equity industry for dollars. Brokers compete against each other. If I am a customer and have a choice between trading crude oil futures or a crude oil ETF, the equity broker has a huge leg up against the futures broker if no one from MF stands trial – specifically, top management.”

Juxtapose the comments of Mr. Roe and Mr. Carter to the comment I highlighted yesterday by Harvard professor Niall Ferguson:

When countries improve rule of law, property rights, and investor protections, and when regulation becomes more transparent and corruption reduced, there are major payoffs. The World Justice Project says the U.S. has been deteriorating for close to 10 years by all these measures…

I repeat, why no immunity for Ms. O’Brien? Let this be the legacy of those in Washington who would cast their lots with the likes of Jon Corzine and others rather than standing up for Mr. Roe, Mr. Carter, and the American public at large.

Without making light of it, this entire MF Global scenario reminds me of another Chicago caper in which those disguised as the Feds were also shown to be part of the “the sting”. While the clip below may provide a little bit of entertainment value, regrettably the pain experienced by many of our fellow citizens is all too real.

Can somebody explain to me again why Ms. O’Brien is not granted immunity?

In the meantime, let’s go back to the mid ’70s and enjoy this classic scene. Too bad the MF Global mess was not only a movie, as well.

Larry Doyle 

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

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