Jon Corzine, who lost $1.2 billion of customer money when his company, MF Global, went bankrupt, told the Senate today that he's "not an accounting expert" and so cannot say definitively how financial regulations ought to be changed to prevent MF Global-style failures in the future.
"To the extent that people believe that the disclosures that we made were not adequate, and they believe that more disclosure is better, thatcertainly should be consider," Corzine, asked if "we should reexamine the accounting treatment of repo-to-maturity transactions (RTMs)," replied. He added that, "I'm probably not the one who should speak to this -- I'm certainly not an accounting expert -- [because] the issues of off-balance sheet questions are very challenging for those who make rules in accounting."
Here's a Fitch Ratings description of how an RTM works:
When a firm engages in RTM, it typically retains both the credit and market risk of the security underlying the RTM transaction. Therefore, if the underlying security in a RTM transaction deteriorates the issuer usually has to post additional margin to make up for any loss in value. If these margin calls increase so that the spread between the yield on the instrument and the financing narrows or becomes negative, the firm loses its profit margin on the transaction. The firm cannot sell the security because it is obligated to deliver the security at maturity (while meeting the interim margin calls) unless it unwinds the financing.
Corzine says he does not know where $1.2 billion in customer money went when his firm went bankrupt.