MF Global files for bankruptcy protection

AP News
Posted: Oct 31, 2011 10:54 AM
MF Global files for bankruptcy protection

Securities firm MF Global Holdings Ltd. is seeking bankruptcy protection one week after reporting its biggest ever quarterly loss and having its credit downgraded to junk status.

The company, run by former New Jersey Governor and Goldman Sachs head Jon Corzine, was downgraded by debt-rating agencies concerned about its big bets on European debt. It appears to be the first big U.S. casualty of Europe's debt crisis.

MF Global filed its petition with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. It says it has assets of $100 million to $500 million and liabilities of $10 million to $50 million.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Trading in shares of MF Global Holdings Ltd. has been halted amid reports that the ailing securities firm is desperately trying to sell itself. The New York Federal Reserve has also suspended any new business with MF Global.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that MF Global would seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, partly because Jon Corzine, the former Goldman Sachs chairman who runs the firm, had MF Global invest $6 billion in sovereign bonds issued by European countries over the past year.

Corzine, who is also a former governor of Jersey, was working over the weekend to find a buyer, according to several reports. The Journal said one scenario has Interactive Brokers Group of Greenwich, Conn., bidding $1 billion under a court-supervised auction.

The New York Stock Exchange halted trading in MF Global shares before the market opened Monday.

MF Global shares plunged 66 percent last week. Its credit was dropped to "junk" status by several agencies, which cited concerns about the firm's exposure to European debt. It also reported its biggest-ever quarterly loss, $186.6 million, for the fiscal second quarter. MF Global blamed the loss on weaker-than-expected trading revenue and one-time costs.

Corzine over the helm at MF Global early last year. He set out to grow the company into a global investment bank. In addition to futures and commodities trading, MF Global started making bets with the firm's own money, The Journal reported.

MF Global turned a profit just three times in the past 12 quarters. As the European banking crisis threatened to spread, investors and analysts focused on the company's holdings of debt from Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

Last week, Corzine said he expected the firm to "successfully manage these exposures to what we believe will be a positive conclusion in December 2012."

Until Monday, MF Global was among 22 companies considered financially secure enough to act as "primary dealers" for the Fed to sell US government debt.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said it suspended MF Global's status until it demonstrates that it still meets the Fed's standards for a primary dealer. The Fed could terminate MF Global's primary dealer status.