It was always unlikely that Jon Corzine — the former Goldman Sachs chief, New Jersey governor, and beard-haver — would go to jail for the collapse of MF Global, the brokerage firm he ran into the ground in 2011. Stupidity isn’t a crime, after all, and what MF Global did — made a bunch of risky repo-to-maturity trades that hinged on the European debt crisis resolution, then shuffled some customer funds into an account that was used to pay off creditors when things didn’t go as planned — was undeniably dumb, but there was little evidence that it was criminal or that Corzine knew the full extent of what was going on under him.
Now Corzine seems to have gotten a semi-official reprieve from facing the music in criminal court.
DealBook reports that federal regulators are on the verge of pressing civil charges against Corzine for his role in the MF Global collapse. Corzine “could face millions of dollars in fines and possibly a ban from trading commodities” as a result of the civil charges. That would keep him from launching a hedge fund, as he was reportedly mulling doing several months ago.
But the more notable bit of news is what won’t happen to him: namely, criminal charges. DealBook’s law enforcement sources tell it that “after nearly two years of stitching together evidence, criminal investigators have concluded that porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, allowed the customer money to disappear,” and have essentially labeled Corzine a bad manager who ran a trading shop without even the most elementary safeguards, rather than a crook.
This will be disappointing to Corzine’s critics, who want to see him behind bars. But it’s good for Corzine, who will still be able to live a free man’s life — which includes making his regular trips to his favorite barbershop, Esquires of Wall Street, where DealBook says he was recently spotted. After such a close shave with justice, it’s no wonder he wants a familiar person cutting his hair.