The $593 million shortfall in client money at MF Global Holdings Ltd., the broker that filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31, appears to result from a “massive hide-and-seek ploy,” Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said today.
The agency took the rare step of publicly announcing its investigation, which began on Oct. 31, saying it was in the public interest to confirm the enforcement action. Jill E. Sommers was named as the senior commissioner during the probe, after Gary Gensler, the agency’s chairman, recused himself.
“This isn’t just a lost and found inquiry; it’s a full-on effort to get to the bottom of what appears to be a massive hide-and-seek ploy,” Chilton said in an e-mail statement.
“It’s a distinct possibility, some would say probability, that somebody has done something with the money, and that it’s not going to be ‘all of a sudden discovered’ with an innocent explanation,” Chilton said. “If that’s the case, it’s patently illegal. I don’t know yet. Our investigation will uncover that, and we’re aggressively pursuing this.”
Gensler recused himself from the investigation because of his history with Jon S. Corzine, the former head of MF Global. Gensler worked with Corzine at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and during his time as a Senate aide, while Corzine represented New Jersey as a U.S. senator.
“I have complete confidence in the dedicated men and women in enforcement to carry out the necessary investigation to get to the bottom of what happened,” Sommers, a Republican, said in a statement.
The CFTC also began a review of futures brokers to determine if client funds are properly segregated. The initial review will include between 10 and 12 futures brokers and the CFTC hasn’t set a deadline for the review, a person familiar with the review said.
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