Corzine in the House

December 8, 2011, 11:14 PM UTC

Today Jon Corzine shows his face in public.

Jon Corzine just began testifying at today’s House Committee on Agriculture  hearing on the downfall of MF Global , although we don’t yet know how many questions he’ll answer once completing his prepared statement.

Early expectations were that he’d simply invoke his 5th Amendment rights, but Corzine has said the following in written testimony:

“Considering the circumstances, many people in my situation would almost certainly invoke their constitutional right to remain silent – a fundamental right that exists for the purpose of protecting the innocent. Nonetheless, as a former United States Senator who recognizes the importance of congressional oversight, and recognizing my position as former chief executive officer in these terrible circumstances, I believe it is appropriate that I attempt to respond to your inquiries.”

At the same time, however, Corzine has said that he does not have access to many of the relevant documents, which means we may hear a lot of “I don’t know” and “I can’t recall” rather than “I invoke my constitutional rights.”

I’m going to try to live-blog this as best as possible:

* Corzine asked if why there is a shortfall: “There are many transactions that occurred in those last chaotic days… I am not aware of all those nor am I able to look at all those transactions.”

* Corzine asked if he approved moving funds from segregated accounts: “I never intended to break any rules whether it broke with segregation rules… ” When asked if he knew such movement was illegal, Corzine hedged.

* Rep. Lucas keeps calling Corzine’s company “FM Global.” Does he not have any aides who can whisper in his ear?

* “I did not threaten the board that I would leave… But I had a conversation with a board member that could have been interpreted that way.”

* Corzine thought European regulators would “would take far more forceful steps…to avoid insolvency.”

* It sounds like there is some sort of police scanner in the background. Wonder if Corzine’s lawyer should be worried.

* Corzine: “I don’t recall Gensler or anyone else recommending bankruptcy.”

* Corzine asked if MF Global’s books were “a mess.” He says that books and records for last few days when firm “under pressure” were distinct from books and records previously, which “weren’t a mess.”

* Corzine, to his credit, hasn’t yet invoked 5th. Corzine, to his discredit, does not seem to know what was going on within his own firm.

* Corzine: 30-1 leverage much higher than I would have wanted for a sustained period of time.

* Committee now going into recess for an hour so that members can vote on other stuff…

* … And we’re back.

* Corzine asked if he’d put up his own personal wealth to make MF Global customers whole. He defers.

* Gets asked about lessons learned. Corzine says first goal is to recover missing funds. Beyond that, he doesn’t say much. Rep. then asked to call on Corzine in the future for his advice. Seriously.

* Rep. King asks if Corzine expects a “proportional personal loss.” Corzine won’t answer, but I will: No.

* Corzine gets asked why MF Global didn’t trade in Greek sovereign bonds. He replies that Greece was less solvent than other countries in which MF did invest, in terms of debt-to-GDP and other metrics. He also says his other sovereign trades were not made based on expectation that Greece would be bailed out.

* Now Corzine is being asked by Rep. King about New Jersey pension shortfalls. Important, but totally off-topic.

* Corzine asked if he “always did the right thing when no one was looking.” Corzine says yes (d’uh).

* Did Corzine “run to the bathroom and throw up?” He doesn’t respond.

* Rep. Scott: “What did you do at this company? Was it run by the board?” Corzine responds that he and others in management made investment recommendations that were approved or denied by the board.

* Scott: Did you co-mingle? Corzine: “There was never any directed intent to co-mingle those funds.” Scott calls him out on the number of times Corzine has said “intent” and “intend.”

* Corzine: Sovereign positions were not financed via segregated client money (at least he doesn’t think so).

* Corzine keeps saying he doesn’t have access to appropriate documents. Wouldn’t he have sought all this out before resigning (i.e., as firm was collapsing)?

* Corzine: “We had done stress tests on what securities we’d be able to sell… and we had undrawn credit lines held in reserve.”

* Worth noting: Corzine has not invoked the 5th Amendment in response to any questions so far.

* If they ask Corzine for “advice” on preventing another meltdown, will it be called The Corzine Rule?

* Rep. Schmidt talking about an Eagle Scout’s comment. This follows earlier talk about another congressman’s grandmother’s favorite saying.

* Lehman Brothers raised a few times as example of good actor, in that it didn’t tap segregated client funds as the ship caught fire.

* Corzine: “I am absolutely hopeful that a full understanding of what happened in those last full days will reveal the source of where those monies are. I continue to believe that those resources are in the hands of either counter-parties or there has been some mistaken forwarding of those to some place I didn’t know.”

* Ok, this is funny:

* Rep. Schmidt (R-OH) rarely looks up when she reads her questions. Makes me wonder who wrote them.

* Asked if client funds were ever pledged as collateral for sovereign investments. Corzine says not to his knowledge.

* Corzine’s advice: “It is clear in moments of stress that organizations don’t always operate the same way they would in a normal operating environment. I’d look for triggers that would enhance the oversight of organizations in those conditions.”

* Alright. Some final questions still coming, but I’ve got to run… Don’t really think we learned anything, which basically means it’s been a Congressional hearing…

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