09 November 2011

MF Global's Customer Assets - STOLEN - And Nothing You Hold In This System Is Safe

As suspected, MF Global brazenly took liquid assets like Treasuries and warehouse receipts, but not cash which would have been more quickly missed, from customer accounts to post as illegal collateral for emergency funding with a lender who must have known that they were receiving stolen goods.

When things fell apart, the lender simply took the collateral and liquidated it, and kept the money.

And now they are refusing to even acknowledge this transaction, and apparently the management of MF Global is not yet talking. Why? Because it was an insider deal, and they don't want to give back the stolen money.

When 'non-consequential' customers were requesting their funds, they were issued checks instead of wire transfers. The checks of course were not honored and bounced. But days later, and just hours before the bankruptcy filing, MF Global was paying BONUSES to its UK traders. Remarkable in light of how much dirty business the NY firms have been outsourcing to London. Follow the hush money.

This is a scandal of the first order, and a severe test for the Obama Justice Department, the regulatory agencies, and the exchanges.  This is a great crime, undeniably premeditated, and possibly the tip of an iceberg that would shake the public confidence in a deeply corrupt financial system. 

If a registered broker can simply take Treasuries and receipts for physical assets like gold and silver from customer accounts and give them to a complicit crony lender, and then look at the public with a straight face and say the money is missing and they do not know where it is, then no one's accounts are safe, anywhere, at any bank or broker, in the US financial system. 

This has every appearance of a legally sanctioned theft, pure and simple.

Postscript:  Apparently it really is legally sanctioned according to CFTC Rule 1.29.  But it still may have been a violation of the laws of fraudulent conveyance.  Where is Eliot Spitzer when you need him?

Here is a synopsis of the likely events from Forbes:

When did MF Global exploit the customer segregated accounts and why? How were the proceeds used to stem the firm’s deepening insolvency?

Based on the sequence of events described above, I believe that MF Global transferred assets, not cash, from customer segregated accounts to a “house” account sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday.

I’ve given those who executed the “nuclear option” to save MF Global the benefit of the doubt. I believe those executives used all available legitimate means to raise cash first, including trying to sell proprietary assets, as CNBC reported, and exhausting existing credit lines. When margin calls on the repurchase agreements and account closure demands from strategically important clients – not the bread and butter individual traders and smaller investors and money managers who got rubber checks – kept coming, they hit the wall.

Why do I believe MF Global executives transferred customer assets not cash to “house” accounts? Because missing cash would be noticed immediately. Their clients were still trading and clearing and cash was required to settle. Securities such as U.S. Treasury Bills, blue-chip equities such as CME Group stock held by many exchange members, and physical assets such as gold, warehouse receipts, and other certificates of title are less active. They would not be missed Thursday through Monday...

Any firm willing to lend $300-400 million for a week or so against approximately $700 million of customer assets was certainly wise enough to require recourse to those assets in the event of a bankruptcy. Some of the assets, like CME stock, were sure to drop in value if the bankruptcy occurred.

When MF Global filed for bankruptcy midday on Monday October 31, 2011, the lender owned the customer assets.

My guess is the pledged assets were immediately liquidated.

No one is raising their hand to admit they’re the firm who lent MF Global several hundred million dollars, enough to get them through the weekend, based on collateral MF Global had no right to pledge. It’s not clear what the responsibility of a firm is in that situation to ask questions and confirm title. What is clear is that the arrangement, most likely a favor called in based on very strong relationships, must have been planned in advance. When all else failed to generate enough cash on Wednesday afternoon, someone at MF Global pressed the button and set the wheels in motion.

The lender must have had the capacity to make such a loan and the ability to execute a strategy intended to leave few traces. But there are always trails to follow. (Like the traces of the enormous number of put options that were placed prior to 911.)

Regulators can look for records at MF Global and at the DTC of transfers of assets between customer accounts and MF Global house accounts and, then, of those same assets between MF Global and a third party. I suspect there is only one lender, since there was not enough time to arrange for more than one and the potential for exposure would be greater with more counterparties.

I don’t think the last inning lender is one of the banks with existing MF Global accounts. Everyone knew those organizations would be under immediate and heavy scrutiny...."

Read the rest here.

I beg to differ with the author. I do think it is a big, very well-connected name, and I think they are a party to a greater ongoing fraud that will never see the light of day, even if the money is eventually returned. And I have to wonder if anyone of consequence will ever be prosecuted for this, because they simply know too much about this and other things.

This increasingly brazen theft is the consequence of moral hazard from a credibility trap.

I am amazed at how so many people cannot wrap their minds around what is happening in the financial system, as a late stage fraud turns increasingly to blatant looting.

Is this a classic case of cognitive dissonance? No one really wants to hear about it. They look at other things, trivialities. They simply will not see it, until it comes for them. What is it going to take, how far can this go?

If this continues, then nothing you hold in this system is safe.