Former MF Global CEO, Jon Corzine, read a carefully crafted statement (21 pages) at the hearing that he was subpoenaed to attend at the House Committee on Agriculture. No doubt, Corzine had input on the statement from his criminal defense attorney, Andrew Levander, who also attended the hearing. The statement opens with an apology (customers, employees and investors), then quickly moves to a well versed defense that his "...access to many relevant documents, including internal communications and account statements, and even my own notes, all of which are essential to my being able to testify accurately about the chaotic, sleepless nights preceding the declaration of bankruptcy." It provided an excuse for Corzine who repeatedly said in his testimony that there were things he could not recall without those notes he left back at the office.
Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (Republican-Oklahoma) got things started by asking Corzine, "In your roll at MF Global, did you ever authorize transfer of customer funds?" Corzine paused for a moment and then offered, "I never intended to break any rules..." This is the main question that everyone wants answered. However, it left one thinking that there needed to be more follow up questioning but time limits prevented digging further (Where is Nancy Grace when you need her?). Corzine went on to say that he was not involved in the details of handling accounts and moving money.
Congressman Timothy Johnson (Republican-Illinois) reminded Corzine that a number of his constituents (many farmers) had substantial losses. He then asked a pointed question to Corzine, "Since you are a man of considerable wealth, are you willing to commit to using your own money to compensate those smaller investors who have lost money." Wanting a "yes" or "no" answer, Corzine instead said, "I am sure this is going to be resolved at some point."
Corzine's comments were not received well by one MF Global customer, Foti Georgiadis, who I wrote about in early November and still has his funds frozen at MF Global. Georgiadis felt that Corzine shirked responsibility during the testimony and that eventually one of the line-staff employees at MF Global will be held accountable while the executives move on without consequence. Georgiadis termed Corzine, "Too big to jail." To date, the only comfort Georgiadis has received is through connecting with other unfortunate MF Global clients that still do not have access to their investment portfolios.
It was admirable that Jon Corzine did have the humility and courage to show up before the House Committee on Agriculture today, albeit by subpoena, and he never invoked his 5th Amendment right to not answer any question. However, it does raise the question as to whom business leaders like Corzine fear more, the people who they serve (customers, employees and investors), or the federal government? Had Corzine stayed on at MF Global, he most certainly would have had to answer more questions, tougher questions, than the ones posed by the congressmen today, but at least he could have tried to fix a problem he created. Corzine did acknowledge the suffering and hardships of those people who were hurt by stating, "Their plight weighs on my mind every day - every hour." I am sure that those who are suffering would rather have Jon Corzine working every day and every hour to fix this mess.