Corzine at MF Global, a hands-on gambler

Dec. 12, 2011 at 1:31 PM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The push to invest in European debt at MF Global came from the firm's corner office, a source told The New York Times.

MF Global, which filed for bankruptcy Oct. 31, bet such an alarming amount on European debt -- about $6.3 billion that the firm's board challenged Chief Executive Officer Jon Corzine on the issue, the Times reported Monday.

But Corzine not only dug in his heels, he told the firm's directors that he was "willing to step down," if the board had "lost confidence in me," the source said.

At a congressional hearing, Corzine said he did not mean to threaten to resign. The source told the Times, however, that Corzine's message to the board was that, "If you want a smaller or different position (on the gamble on European debt), maybe you don't have the right guy here."

Corzine, the former head of Goldman Sachs and former governor of New Jersey was, at heart, a trader who pushed for big bets that he thought would result in big payoffs, the Times said.

His mission was to turn MF Global into a trading power, like Goldman Sachs, albeit with smaller volumes, the Times said.

He was so compulsive about trading, however, he was known for keeping his BlackBerry handy to make trades even during meetings.

Meanwhile, the firm cannot account for about $1 billion of its client's money and regulators are concerned that customer funds were illegally used to cover other losses when the firm realized it was sliding fast toward bankruptcy.

Corzine has not been charged with wrongdoing. Reputedly an even-tempered manager, he was, however, a pivotal, hands-on type of executive.

At one point in his role as CEO, he turned down a proposed upgrade to the firm's risk management on grounds that it was too costly, even while agreeing the upgrade was needed.

"I consider one of my most important jobs to be chief risk officer of our firm," he said at a conference in June.

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