CEO Gaffe of the Week: MF Global

This year, I introduced a weekly series called "CEO Gaffe of the Week." Having come across more than a handful of questionable executive decisions last year when compiling my list of the worst CEOs of 2011, I thought it could be a learning experience for all of us if I pointed out apparent gaffes as they occur. Trusting your investments begins with trusting the leadership at the top -- and with leaders like these on your side, sometimes you don't need enemies!

This week, I want to highlight my selection for worst CEO in 2011, Jon Corzine, as well as the FBI, in general.

The dunce cap
If you thought MF Global (OTC: MFGLQ) customers were pissed off about their money being improperly used to support the firm while it was making a $6.3 billion bet on sovereign debt in Europe, then imagine how ticked off they’re going to be to find out that after months of investigating the who’s and what’s of MF Global’s collapse, no criminal charges are expected to be filed by the FBI against Jon Corzine or any of MF Global’s management team.

Apparently, “Oops, did I do that?” is still a perfectly legitimate escape clause for Wall Street, and MF Global stands as a testament to this fact.

At the heart of the issue is a $175 million payment made to JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) to cover a collapse that took what amounted to days. Of course, this is just one piece of the puzzle that currently lists about $1 billion in unaccounted for customer funds.

Investigators, who have included the FBI and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, appear to have concluded that it’s unlikely that Jon Corzine was aware of the origin of the funds being transferred to JPMorgan. This doesn’t put Jon Corzine, the former head of Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) and former governor of New Jersey, out of the realm of financial wrongdoing lawsuits, but it basically negates the possibility of him serving any jail time over a scandal that’s cost customers hundreds of millions of dollars.

To the corner Mr. Corzine and investigators
If you thought MF Global’s "whodunit?" attitude was bad, then grab something to bite into because you’re going to love this…

According to multiple media sources, Jon Corzine is pondering the idea of opening up his own hedge fund. That’s right -- the man who decimated MF Global in a matter of days with a ridiculously highly-levered bet on poor quality debt in Europe, the man whose company lost its clients’ money, wants to invest your hard-earned money!

Are you serious? That’s like posting a “kick me” sign on your back! If I had my way, Corzine wouldn’t be allowed near a trading floor again as long as he lived, and I can only hope investors, mutual funds, endowments, and trusts are smart enough to keep their money away from the captain of the financial Titanic!

Do you have a CEO whom you'd like to nominate for this dubious honor? Shoot me an email, and a one- or two-sentence description of why your choice deserves next week's nomination, and you just may wind up seeing your nominee in the spotlight.

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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He is merciless when it comes to poking fun at dubious CEO antics. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Goldman Sachs. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that never wears a dunce cap.


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