Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Corzine's Blind Ambition: The Collapse of MF Global

MF Global is essentially in ICU, and nothing short of a miracle will save the company as we know it. Who was at the wheel when the company crashed and burned last week? Corzine. Corzine, former governor of New Jersey, who was once the head of Goldman Sachs, went back to his roots on Wall Street to head MF Global. As CEO of MF Global, Corzine, built the company to $41 billion business. It sounds like another Wall Street dream, but this success story, quickly turned into a nightmare, for the company and for its CEO.

The announcement came Thursday, November 3rd, that Corzine is stepping down as CEO on the heels of an investigation of the company’s unraveling. Their troubles started when the European crisis began to impact the company’s bottom line, since MF Global was heavily invested in European bonds.

MF Global is the first big financial company to tank at the hands of the Euro -crisis. The company’s Partners pulled back with increased concerns about their Euro bond exposure, which descended into a severe cash deficiency. MF Global’s investment in Spain, Italy and Portugal bonds had amassed to $6 billion in debt. The firm’s stock declined 66% last week when the company reported its worst quarterly losses ever. Meanwhile,the transatlantic continent’s gloomy future is hanging in balance, and sure to bring MF Global to its knees. The swift sell-off of its stock precipitated the company filing for bankruptcy. To put this horror story in perspective according to bankruptcydata.com, the MF Global bankruptcy filing is the 8th-biggest financial institution in the US, placing them over Chrysler, (in 2009), but smaller than Lehman Brothers.

It is beginning to appear that Corzine set out to redefine MF Global's Business Model, and aggressively redirect the company’s focus and trading objectives in an effort to create his own Goldman Sachs. He wanted to build an international empire, only he failed to consider the global economic mayhem, and particularly the crisis unfolding across the Atlantic, where Corzine wanted to heavily invest. The financial discord in Europe was no secret, so what was he thinking? A cocktail of insatiable greed and ambition tends to have a blinding effect on the soul.

Behind the scenes, the Wall Street Journal reported that MF Global was seeking investors or buyers to alleviate the cash crunch. But alas, there were no takers and unfortunately no alternatives emerged before the regulators’ deadline. The company was subsequently delisted. This is a classic case of an overly eager, unethical CEO with his own agenda. The level of ambition and arrogance was so steep, it apparently impaired his ability to lead with the company's best interest at heart. Meanwhile, nearly a thousand people will be out of work in a couple of weeks, just in time for Thanksgiving. The bright side is that many of the employees will continue with their lives and eventually find stability, but Corzine is finished - both politically and professionally.

Given the anti-Wall St. sentiment, I was not surprised to learn that Corzine declined a $12 million severance pay. No matter how you choose to spin this fact, his decision to walk away from millions of dollars he was entitled to, speaks volumes.

K. Reilly
The Cohn-Reilly Report

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