Former MF Global Inc. broker Evan Brent Dooley was sentenced to five years in prison for making unlawful unauthorized trades that caused the now-defunct futures firm to lose more than $141 million in 2008.
The sentence, half of what the government sought, was imposed by U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow in Chicago. Dooley, who pleaded guilty in December to two counts of violating speculative position limits under the Commodities Exchange Act, was also ordered to serve one year of supervised release and to pay $141 million in restitution.
“I stand before you today broken, humbled, a deeply remorseful man,” Dooley told Dow in a choked voice before being sentenced yesterday. “I ask that you have mercy on me.”
Dooley was indicted in 2010, more than a year before the bankruptcy filing of brokerage parent MF Global Holdings Ltd. Still, the incident was cited as an example of risk management weakness in a 124-page report released this month by trustee Louis Freeh analyzing the firm’s failure.
“MF Global suffered immediate and severe negative consequences from the Dooley incident,” which wiped out a year’s worth of profit, Freeh said. “In the aftermath of the Dooley incident, the company adopted a written framework for managing risk. This framework was never fully implemented.”
MF Global Holdings filed for bankruptcy in October 2011 after making a $6.3 billion wrong-way trade on its own behalf of the bonds of some of Europe’s most indebted nations. The company won final approval April 5 of its plan to repay creditors, paving the way for the eighth-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history to wind down under court protection.
The failure to adequately supervise Dooley, who worked in the firm’s Memphis, Tennessee, office, was referenced by both sides and the judge at yesterday’s hearing.
“The supervision was bad,” Dow said. “MF Global has had its comeuppance.”
While the defendant wants to share his blame with his employer, “It begins and ends with Brent Dooley,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford Histed said. Histed called Dooley, “the most infamous American rogue trader of the last 10 years.”
Dooley, 45, formerly of Olive Branch, Mississippi, was associated with the New York-based firm from September 2006 to February 2008 and allowed to trade on his own account and for clients, prosecutors said in announcing his indictment in April 2010.
Patrick Fitzgerald, the Chicago U.S. attorney at the time, said Dooley “allegedly induced MF Global to open a trading account and act as his financial guarantor by providing false information about his financial condition on his account application.”
The case was brought in Chicago because the transactions were conducted through CME Group Inc.’s Chicago Board of Trade.
In an overnight session in January 2008, Dooley allegedly executed a series of large buy and sell orders for about 1,500 wheat futures contracts, according to the indictment. Each contract comprises 5,000 bushels.
Though without funds to cover potential losses, he was able to liquidate his position that night for a profit of about $37,000, prosecutors said. Confronted by an MF Global supervisor the next day, Dooley said the activity was inadvertent, according to the indictment.
A month later, with a negative-$3,000 balance in his account, Dooley executed buy and sell orders for almost 32,000 contracts, including more than 24,000 for May 2008 wheat futures, exceeding positional limits set by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
He was unable to successfully liquidate his position. When MF Global authorities learned of Dooley’s trading the night of Feb. 26, 2008, into the next day, they deactivated his account and liquidated the rest of his position, according to the indictment, incurring a loss of more than $141 million.
Six percent of the company disappeared because of Dooley’s trades, Histed said yesterday.
Dooley told the court he has struggled with alcoholism his entire adult life and was drinking excessively as he traded that night.
“I panicked,” he said, recounting how the situation spiraled beyond his control. The following morning, he said, he “sobbed like a baby” in his wife’s arms.
Citing Dooley’s continued employment as a consultant for a Florida firm that imports skincare products from Europe and his need to support two daughters from two different marriages -- one failed, one failing -- defense lawyer Keri Ambrosio had asked Dow to give her client probation.
The $141 million restitution order was punishment for a lifetime, Ambrosio said.
Histed said the restitution wasn’t punishment. Rather it was to make the victim whole, he said. Prosecutors asked for that sum to be paid to James Giddens, MF Global Inc.’s liquidation trustee.
In ordering the restitution, Dow called the sum “staggering.”
“No one could ever pay that back,” the judge said.
Dooley must report to prison on June 18. Ambrosio asked the court to recommend to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that her client be incarcerated near Memphis or in northern Florida, where he has family. Dooley now lives in Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, prosecutors said in a statement issued late yesterday.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” she said after the sentencing. Dooley declined to comment.
Outside the courtroom yesterday, Histed called the punishment “a significant and substantial sentence.”
The case is U.S. v. Dooley, 1:10-cr-00335, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).