Fast, Furious at MF Global [WSJ]At 4:53 p.m. five days before MF Global Holdings Ltd. […]
This is progress, okay? They're doing the best they can. [MF Global] [a]dministrators in New […]
Because, you know, it’s sorta tricky and it didn’t really turn out so well for Corzine & Co.
The SEC is in talks with the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which sets accounting standards, about “repurchase-to- maturity” agreements that MF Global used in off-balance-sheet accounting, Schapiro said today during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in Washington. “We are talking with FASB about whether we need more disclosure of those,” Schapiro said.
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) seems a little more urgent:
“How is it possible that someone is able to bet the farm here, multiple times, and it disappears from the balance sheet because of this repo-to-maturity technique?” asked Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, noting that the technique made it appear as though the risk had been “sold.”
“That is a loophole so big you can drive a Mack truck through it,” Conrad said. “If that’s not closed, we should ask ourselves what we’re doing.”
I think we all know what a lot of people at the SEC are doing.
After apologizing for the slow pace, it appears the House of Klynveld has upped their game.
“We have so far collected about a half of the approximate $1 billion outstanding but it is hard to speculate on the final amount given we are dependent on third parties,” said KPMG partner Richard Heis in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.
Okay, so there’s still half a bil out there somewhere. Anybody seen it? No? No worries, then. KPMG has a backup plan.
The administrator confirmed last week that it had sold MF Global’s stake in the London Metals Exchange to JP Morgan and the broker’s British metals desk had been offloaded to former rival FCStone. Heis said: “There are other parts of the business that could be sold and we are looking to sell them. We’re hopeful of making further announcements shortly.”
Your continued patience is appreciated.
The CFTC’s action against PwC probably came as a result of a shocking CME Group announcement late Wednesday: “It now appears that the firm [MF Global] made … transfers of customer segregated funds in a manner that may have been designed to avoid detection.” These transfers, CME Group said, appeared to have taken place after its audit team showed up last week at MF Global to take a look and found everything to be in order. CME Group couldn’t have been hoodwinked like that if PwC had been doing its job all along. You can’t circumvent controls unless there are none or there are holes. It was PwC’s job to review controls and the adequacy of policies and procedures to support them. [Francine McKenna/AB, Earlier]
Don’t an expect an apology from PwC, like some firms.
PwC declined to comment.
UPDATE: Can you believe that they didn’t bother to call us? BBW reports:
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission sent the subpoena seeking information about $633 million missing from customer accounts, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter isn’t public. The subpoena was received yesterday, the person said.
Initially the House of Klynveld wasn’t worried about any MF Global clients getting their money back. Then yesterday we learned that plenty of people were pretty cranky, including one trader who thought the firm’s efforts so far were hilarious. Now, after a number of cranky phone calls and thousands of sternly-worded emails, KPMG is apologi[z]ing for all the “disruption” since they’ve been appointed as the administrator of MF Global:
“We are working with the companies’ staff to transfer client positions wherever possible. Where exchanges and counterparties have defaulted the company under their own rules, we have worked closely with them to try to optimise the outcome,” said Richard Fleming, UK head of restructuring at KPMG. “We understand the frustration among clients and market participants at the disruption that is currently being experienced and are sorry for the inconvenience this is causing. In relation to client assets and monies held by the company we are actively working to reconcile holdings and accounts in order to enable assets to be released as soon as possible.”
So, c’mon guys; I know it’s been over 72 hours but please bear with them.
As has been reported, MF Global may have done some commingling of client money with its own which is a big no-no. This means the Feds are now on the case, which means typically cool-as-a-
cumcumber cucumber Jon Corzine could be sweating a bit. MF Global’s auditor, PwC, on the other hand, has it made in the shade (at least somewhat). Why? How? Alison Frankel over at Reuters tells us:
[E]ven if it turns out that MF Global was illicitly dipping into customer accounts, if that commingling of funds helped keep the business afloat, PwC is protected by in pari delicto.
If you’ve never heard of in pari delicto, that’s the obscure doctrine that says a bankruptcy trustee that’s representing the corporation can’t go after another party for stunts pulled by said corporation. In other words, if MF Global commingled funds, if (probably more like “when”) the trustee attempts to recover funds from PwC, the firm will be protected. Francine McKenna has been writing about in pari delicto since early 2010 saying that it’s “like a pair of needle nosed pliers by audit firm defense lawyers to diffuse a bomb” and last year’s ruling for KPMG in Kirschner v. KPMG and the favorable ruling for PwC in Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP reaffirmed that sentiment. PwC probably isn’t sweating this.
But what about PwC’s audit opinion on MF’s financial statements? The Grumpies pondered the idea of what might constitute grounds for P. Dubs to issue a going concern opinion for MFG:
Might that include four years (2008-2011) of massive losses, as occurred at MF Global? Might that include severely negative free cash flows for three of the last four years? Might that include an exposure to European sovereign debt that will lead to greater future losses? Might that include several downgrades in the credit ratings?
Say you’ve got a broker-dealer client that has no European sovereign debt exposure and isn’t covered by a ratings agency. You simply have massive losses for four straight years and negative free cash flow for three out of the last four and few signs that things are turning around. Do you think there’s any doubt about this business’s ability to continue as a going concern? What about substantial doubt? Throw in the Eurotrash debt and junky bond ratings again and where do you stand now? Yikes.
But PwC was cool with it. We probably know the why (money and client retention, natch). But how? Love to hear some opinions on that. No matter the answer, our lawyer friends will do well by it all.
That is, in case you were worried. Reuters reports that Richard Fleming, the Head of Restructuring in the UK, said that “It’s still a large number. It’s still billions,” but so far things are moving quite nicely. “Our strategy this morning has been … where we have clients whose position is reconciled, and are due funds, then that money will flow.” Keep truckin’! [Reuters]