When Jon Corzine placed shaky trades on European sovereign debt and made the bad decisions which sunk MF Global, he did so despite warnings from his chief risk officer. "MF Global Holdings Ltd.'s executive in charge of controlling risks raised serious concerns several times last year to directors at the securities firm about the growing bet on European bonds by his boss, Jon S. Corzine," reports the Wall Street Journal today in a worrisome, if not confusing, story which begs the obvious question: "Why wasn't anyone at MF Global listening to its chief risk officer, Michael Roseman?" Wouldn't it be practical to listen to concerns from someone you pay over $1 million to find concerns? The Wall Street Journal's sister site, FINS, explains, "Corzine, the 64-year-old former New Jersey governor and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chairman who took over as chairman and chief executive of MF Global in March 2010, reported only to the company's board of directors" reports FINS. That allowed Corzine to ignore advisement from his risk-management chiefs--something that bucks protocol at other financial firms. FINS adds, "At Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., for example, top executives rarely, if ever, initiate a specific trading strategy, according to people familiar with the matter," which all eventually brings us back to Roseman. "People familiar with the situation said Mr. Corzine was annoyed by Mr. Roseman's dour attitude and persistence, though their face-to-face meetings about the trade were cordial," reports The Journal which also points out that the board picked and chose a side in that rift:
Each time, directors asked Mr. Roseman about the risks of the trade. He responded by outlining the risks that made him uncomfortable about the trade, people familiar with the situation said. Another person briefed on the matter said two directors don't recall hearing any protests by Mr. Roseman. It isn't clear what Mr. Corzine said at the board meetings, but he was allowed to keep increasing the European bet gradually until June, when it hit $6.4 billion, someone familiar with the situation said.
Granted, Corzine's unusual decision-making structure, penchant for bad bets, and spending his client's money have plunged his financial reputation into subterranean depths. And news of his going against good advice isn't going to do him any favors. But as impossible at it seems, his enablers, his board, there are some people who may come off looking worse.