MF Global isn't missing any money, claims a source familiar with the matter, it's just been stuffed into the wrong accounts.
The confusion in the accounting arose as MF Global attempted to liquidate $27 billion in positions in two days, the source said, claiming that in an audit one week before the company filed for bankruptcy it was fully in compliance with CME and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission rules.
When it is all unwound, MF Global's accounting will not turn out to be unscrupulous like Refco's, the source said. When that commodities broker went under in 2005, it came to light that customers' and the company's accounts had been lumped together. The company was using customer funds indiscriminately to do business.
"There is a misperception out there that there's a shortfall in that money is missing," said the source. "Assume you had six wine glasses in an empty fish tank—fill your glasses from a fire hose and it's highly unlikely all the water would get into the right glasses."
Federal officials are "dubious" because the total amount of the initial shortfall, almost $1 billion, seemed too big to be accidental.
One big question: When did those trades take place? If they were a function of a last minute attempt to settle trades in the face of bankruptcy, it's possible that MF and Corzine could avoid potential charges.
Corzine, who was in the office Wednesday, has been calm and collected throughout, say sources with knowledge of his actions. But Corzine is no stranger to operating under stress. His demeanor as co-CEO of Goldman Sachs during the disintegration of Long Term Capital Management has been described similarly.
"I am pretty bloody sure that there will be no finding of dishonesty or self-interest," said the source familiar with MF Global's situation. "No one was buying racing horses or Bernie Madoff condominiums."
—Jesse Bergman contributed to this report.
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