Pleading the Fifth

Jeff  Carter
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Posted: Mar 30, 2012 12:01 AM

Yesterday, some MF Global execs testified before Congress and plead the 5th. Today, they are being castigated in many parts of the press for not talking.

I think the press is misguided in their criticism.

First, let’s recognize what is really going on here. There was a fraud and subsequent perjury committed by a former Democratic Senator, Governor and CEO of Goldman Sachs. Do you think that Corzine might have some political capital? Some connections deep inside the bureaucracy? Some connections in the press that might have an interest in hiding the truth and blaming someone else for the theft?

Second, who was the counterparty to the transaction with MF? JP Morgan ($JPM) and Goldman ($GS). Do you think that they are exerting whatever power they can muster to avoid a really in depth investigation? Wouldn’t they rather just have some straw man burned at the stake and make the whole thing go away?

Third, it’s an election year. Corzine was once considered one of the sharpest financial minds in the world by the current occupant of the White House. Corzine was a leading fundraiser for Obama. In politics, money talks and bullshit walks. The way of the Chicago machine is to never forget your friends, especially if they own a big checkbook. Corzine is from downstate Illinois-he is familiar with the ways of the machine. He knows it will protect him as long as he can find a reasonable fall guy.

Gary Gensler was a close pal of Corzine’s. He runs the CFTC. The CFTC is the agency in charge of the commodity business in America. Gensler would like this whole thing to be buried deep in the sand too. The scandal shows the ineffectiveness of the CFTC. Because Corzine committed a fraud and perjury, it kind of reflects on the company that Gensler pals around with. He has recused himself, but believe me, he’d like to see the whole thing settled with a nice bow on it.

At one point in the hearing, Pearce seemed to suggest that the CFTC was urged by another government agency to cease its investigation MF Global, asking the panelists, “Do you have any idea why the CFTC would be asked to cease and desist their investigation?”

The machine, Obama, Wall Street, the federal bureaucracy and the liberal press all have an interest in making it go away.

If the second tier of MF management speaks, it begins to go away. The above forces have something they can spin to turn not only public opinion, but law enforcement officials. They can toss the second tier of MF management into jail, wipe their hands and go on with their lives. The chumbalones sit in prison.

It shouldn’t work that way. This isn’t Enron, where we had some crafty accounting that perpetrated a fraud. This is more akin to a bank robbery.

The other thing that you need to keep in the back of your mind is the simmering rivalry between Chicago and New York. Chicago is the second city. Inferior.

For years, there was a rivalry among exchanges. New Yorkers could never understand how Chicago became the center of the universe when it came to risk management in finance. In 1972, the first financial futures were traded here, and the options market opened up soon after. New York exchanges tried to compete, but got their ass handed to them.

For a hint why Chicago won, go back and look at previous testimony. Who provided the most transparency on the whole situation? Who provided the most clarity? A Chicago guy.

In this case, shouldn’t the venue be the Chicago courts? Why isn’t it? Why are they getting home court advantage? Because MF filed for bankruptcy in New York as quick as they could to get the NYC venue before it could come to Chicago. My assumption is the NY court will be more friendly to Corzine than the Chicago court would be. But that may be my political machine trained cynicism creeping in. I can be persuaded it’s not the case.

If everyone wants the second tier of MF management to spill the beans, why not grant them total immunity and see what happens? The scary thing that could happen is the big dogs could get eaten. Then the whole domino effect starts to cascade and winds up hurting a sitting President. The machine cannot afford that to happen right now. There is too much money at stake. Too much red meat to divi up.

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