Nearly three months after MF Global Holdings collapsed, officials hunting for an estimated $1.2 billion in missing customer money increasingly believe that much of it might never be recovered, according to people familiar with the investigation.
As the sprawling probe that includes regulators, criminal and congressional investigators, and court-appointed trustees grinds on, the findings so far suggest that a "significant amount" of the money could have "vaporized" as a result of chaotic trading at MF Global during the week before the company's Oct. 31 bankruptcy filing, a person close to the investigation was cited as saying Monday.
Many officials now believe certain employees at MF Global dipped into the "customer segregated account" that the New York company was supposed to keep separate from its own assets -- and then used the money to meet demands for more collateral or to unfreeze assets at banks and other counterparties as they grew more concerned about their financial exposure to MF Global.
Investigators also are examining other scenarios that have gained traction in recent weeks, such as the possibility that MF Global suffered steep losses on investments made using customer money. Officials investigating the case have looked into whether such investments were appropriate under rules at the time.
As money poured out of MF Global, much of it likely passed through J.P. Morgan Chase and other banks where the securities firm had accounts, as well as trade-clearing partners such as Depository Trust & Clearing and LCH.Clearnet Group, people familiar with the matter said.
Those companies have denied being knowingly in possession of any missing MF Global money, and any efforts to make them fill the hole would face daunting hurdles. And because the firms usually were middlemen between MF Global and other counterparties, the funds they touched were then scattered widely, complicating the search. ... continued...