Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) CEO, resigned as chairman and CEO of MF Global, the broker-dealer with roots to the colonial days that filed for bankruptcy earlier this week amid a massively leveraged bet on European debt.
Perhaps tellingly, Corzine hired high-profile white-collar defense attorney Andrew Levander, who also helped defend former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain (another Goldman alum), Ezra Merkin, who was sued by clients for being caught up in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, and a host of Wall Street banks including Goldman, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) , according to The Wall Street Journal.
MF Global admitted to transferring client money into corporate coffers as the firm's liquidity ran dry. This flies against the normal broker/client relationship, and is possibly a serious legal violation. "Customers' funds must be kept separate from company money. One of the basic duties of any brokerage firm is to keep track of customer accounts on a daily basis," wrote The New York Times. Some have speculated that Corzine could now face legal charges. According to Fortune:
Corzine has not commented publicly on MF Global's collapse, let alone to say if he authorized the fund transfers. But multiple sources tell me that the sentiment within the MF Global ranks is that Corzine either gave explicit orders to mix the funds or at least was aware of what was going on, adding that only a limited number of people could have made such a decision. Fortune has been unable to confirm the underlying veracity of that sentiment but, if accurate, Corzine would seem to be in violation of the law.
How about that? Three years after Lehman Brothers exploded, and it looks like we're back to square one: reckless risk-taking, sky-high leverage, and a flagrant disregard for clients and the law.