March 23, 2012 / 9:23 PM / 8 years ago

Ex-MF Global official: Corzine approved money transfer: memo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former MF Global official Edith O’Brien said in an October 2011 email that CEO Jon Corzine gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer account to cover an overdraft in a JPMorgan account in London, according to a congressional memo released on Friday.

The sign marking the MF Global Holdings Ltd. offices at 52nd Street in midtown Manhattan is seen in New York November 2, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Steven Goldberg, a spokesman for Corzine, noted that Corzine did ask that the JPMorgan overdraft be corrected, but never gave any instructions to misuse customer funds.

“He never directed Ms. O’Brien or anyone else regarding which account should be used to cure the overdrafts, and he never directed that customer funds should be used for that purpose,” Goldberg said.

The October 28 email, written days before MF Global’s collapse, was released in advance of a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing scheduled next week on the collapse of brokerage MF Global and the continued search for missing customer funds. The committee this week subpoenaed O’Brien to appear before the panel.

Congressional and regulatory officials have been investigating whether customer funds were improperly transferred in the chaotic days before the firm collapsed and what executives knew about the status of various accounts.

The $200 million transfer in customer funds from a JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) account was made to cover a $175 million overdraft in one of MF Global’s accounts at the bank in London, the memo said.

The congressional memo notes that segregated customer accounts like the one in question can contain funds that belong to the futures brokerage and can be used for transfers.

The memo says, however, that JPMorgan chief risk officer Barry Zubrow called Corzine directly to seek assurances that the funds being transferred belonged to MF Global and did not include customer funds.

The bank followed up with a letter requesting written assurances that all MF Global transfers — “past, present and future” — complied with Commodity Futures Trading Commission rules about keeping customer money separate from the broker’s own, according to the memo.

Laurie Ferber, MF Global Holding’s chief lawyer, balked at the request as being too broad and instead wanted to narrow the written assurance to only the October 28 transfer, the memo said.

O’Brien, who wrote the email, served as an assistant treasurer in the firm’s Chicago office.

A representative for JPMorgan Chase was not immediately available for comment.

O’Brien hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, and she could choose to invoke her right against self-incrimination at the hearing next week.

Next week’s hearing is the latest in a series of congressional efforts to grill former senior managers of MF Global.

Former Chief Executive Jon Corzine, Chief Financial Officer Henri Steenkamp and Chief Operating Officer Bradley Abelow have all testified to Congress, and disavowed any intent to misuse customer funds and any specific knowledge of how that misuse may have occurred.

They haven’t been formally accused of any wrongdoing.

Reporting By Alexandra Alper, Sarah N. Lynch and Ann Saphir; Editing by Bernard Orr

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