MF Global Commodity Customers Must Be Paid First, CFTC Says

MF Global Inc. commodity customers must be paid before all other claimants, including the bankrupt parent company, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Court papers by the trustee for MF Global Holdings Ltd., Louis Freeh, contain “errors and misstatements of law” in arguing that commodity laws, which require that customers be “made whole” first, don’t apply to brokerage liquidations, the regulator said in a court filing today. Freeh, representing the parent company creditors, has said money due to them shouldn’t be “diverted” to customers.

If Freeh was right, “the senseless result would be to render inapplicable the key regulations of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the largest commodity broker bankruptcy in U.S. history,” the CFTC said. The result would “strip” customers of a remedy, after they entrusted their assets to the brokerage relying on rules for segregating customer money, it said.

Judge’s Instructions

The CFTC was responding to a judge’s instructions to regulators and the trustee to file briefs on the rules governing the brokerage’s distribution of assets. Creditors of the parent company also have been clashing with brokerage customers as each side seeks more money for itself.

The quest for more assets intensified after brokerage trustee James Giddens said customers may be missing $1.2 billion or more from their accounts. Giddens, who is liquidating the brokerage, has returned about 72 percent of customers’ assets, or around $3.8 billion.

The parent company’s Oct. 31 bankruptcy filing, the eighth-largest in U.S. history, listed assets of $41 billion. Jon Corzine, the former co-chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., quit as MF Global’s CEO on Nov. 4.

The brokerage case is Securities Investor Protection Corp. v. MF Global Inc., 11-02790, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The parent’s bankruptcy case is MF Global Holdings Ltd., 11-bk-15059, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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