Six Things You Need to Know About MF Global

Barry Ritholtz, my second favorite economist, has an OpEd in The Washington Post this morning where he disarticulates the corpse of MF Global and carves it up into 6 key elements you need to know.

The six elements:

1. What MF Global did with client monies was “technically” legal (though it probably violated the spirit of the law).

2. Britain’s leverage loopholes provided a back door for U.S. firms such as Lehman Brothers and MF Global to “re-hypothecate” client assets — and leverage up.

3. As a result of MF Global’s lobbying, key rules were deregulated. This allowed the firm to use client money to buy risky sovereign debt.

4. In 2010, someone from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission recognized these prior deregulations had dramatically ramped clients’ exposure to risk and proposed changing those rules. Jon Corzine, MF Global’s chief executive, successfully prevented the tightening of these regulations. Had the regulations been tightened, it would have prevented the kind of bets that lost MF Global’s segregated client monies.

5. None of MF Global’s Canadian clients lost any money thanks to tighter regulations there.

6. Little noticed in this affair is (once again) the gross incompetency of the ratings agencies. Had they not been maintaining “A” ratings on Spain and Italy, MF Global could not have made its disastrous bets there.

It’s all about the leverage, baby!  Leverage up!  And the role played by the ratings agencies in this debacle is hardly surprising.  Are there any organizations more corrupt than the ratings agencies at this point?

And note point 5… Better healthcare and better financial regulations?  Damn Canucks…

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