Authorities are winding down their criminal investigation of the failed brokarage firm, MF Global, and despite the lack of oversight and the loss of more than $1 billion in customer funds, it now seems unlikely that anyone at the firm will face criminal charges.
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The New York Times is reporting this morning that after ten months of investigation by federal prosecutors, sources say there isn't even enough evidence to charge any of the firm's executives in a criminal probe. The company may have failed spectacularly when it came to oversight and risk management, but the losses cannot be chalked up to outright fraud.
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The company placed a grossly outsized bet (more than $6 billion worth) on the health of the European debt market last year and when it went south, the firm "borrowed" money from the accounts of its customers to try and salvage its own losses. Most of the blame for those trades fell on its CEO (and ex-New Jersey governor) Jon Corzine, and while his reputation and firm are ruined, it seems he will escape any legal sanction. He could still face massive civil lawsuits or fines from regulators who have a lower standard than a criminal prosecution, but jail isn't in the cards.
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Of course, if the company's bankruptcy is the result of incompetence rather than theft that won't make those who were burned by it feel any better. Nor will it help ease the fears of anti-Wall Street types who already believe the financial industry is a wasteland of greed and corruption. Those waiting to see bankers and traders hauled away in handcuffs are going to have to keep waiting a little longer.
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