"I never intended anyone at MF Global to misuse customer funds."
The gist of MF Global CEO John Corzine's testimony is "deny, deny, deny" before the Senate Committee today. It bears watching for a lesson in elusive and dodgy answers to sometimes fuzzy questions.
Oh, and "I do not know where the (missing $1.2 billion?) money is," as Corzine and his COO Bradley Abelow and CFO Henri Steenkamp uttered in sequential chorus - three monkeys who apparently saw no evil, heard no evil and are speaking no - evil? Well, no sense, certainly, and perhaps little truth. To suggest that they are outright lying would not seem to stretch the apparent facts.
What I want the senators to ask is:
What exactly were you getting paid for, Mr. Corzine, if not to oversee the proper functioning of your firm?
What form would this oversight take in a firm whose sole purpose is to invest money - your own and others - making various long and short trades in various securities to (hopefully) make more money?
You might as the CEO be expected to know at any given moment how much money your firm had, how much you were putting at risk and whether you were ahead or behind. Whether your clients were winning or losing would be among the most important facts for you to have at any given moment under any market conditions. And keeping funds appropriately separate would be among your most important daily operational functions.
In a business where the law specifically prohibits the commingling of client with proprietary funds, whether you were misusing client funds - or how exactly you know that you are NOT misusing client funds - would appear to be in the top three facts the CEO is paid to know and to which his human and technology systems should be dedicated.
This testimony from Corzine & Co is reminiscent of an old New Yorker cartoon, which shows a young adolescent staring at a pile of something dark on his plate and saying, apparently to parents who want him to eat his vegetables, "I say it's spinach and I say the hell with it."
In this case it is not spinach, but something worse. Corzine should be - like Sandusky at Penn State - at least under house arrest and perhaps a $5 million bond until it can be proven that his firm - still unable to "find the funds" - did not steal the money and defraud his clients. This is case where missing money should mean the man has to prove his innocence.