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MF Global officials settle lawsuit for US$64.5M

(Dave Bedard photo)

New York | Reuters — Jon Corzine and other former MF Global Holdings officials have reached a US$64.5 million settlement of litigation brought by investors seeking to hold them liable for the now-defunct futures brokerage’s 2011 bankruptcy.

The all-cash settlement with Corzine, who was MF Global’s chief executive and previously New Jersey’s governor, and nine other defendants resolves the last major piece of litigation by MF Global stock, bond and convertible bond investors over the company’s rapid descent into Chapter 11.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan on Tuesday evening granted preliminary approval of the settlement, which was disclosed earlier in the day. He scheduled a Nov. 20 hearing to consider final approval.

The class action accord would boost the investors’ recovery to $204.4 million, including $74.9 million from underwriters and $65 million from the auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (all figures US$).

Investors, led by the Virginia Retirement System and the Canadian province of Alberta, accused MF Global officials of inflating the company’s ability to manage risk, obscuring risks from Corzine’s $6.3 billion bet on European sovereign debt and improperly accounting for deferred tax assets.

Other settling defendants included former chief financial officers J. Randy MacDonald and Henri Steenkamp, and seven former independent directors.

All denied wrongdoing, and their insurers will cover the settlement payments, court papers show.

Andrew Levander, a lawyer for Corzine, declined to comment.

In a court filing, the investors’ lawyers said the $204.4 million recovery represents 18 per cent of the maximum reasonably possible, an “excellent” result given that MF Global went bankrupt.

Salvatore Graziano, a partner at Bernstein Litowitz Berger + Grossmann representing the investors, declined to comment. It is unclear how much that firm and co-lead counsel Bleichmar Fonti Tountas + Auld will request in fees.

Some claims remain against banks that helped underwrite $325 million of MF Global bonds in August 2011.

MF Global filed for Chapter 11 protection on Oct. 31, 2011 as worries mounted about its sovereign debt exposure, credit rating downgrades, margin calls and news that customer funds had been used to cover liquidity shortfalls.

Thousands of former brokerage customers have recouped the $6.7 billion that a court-appointed trustee said they were owed.

Corzine is also a former Goldman Sachs co-chairman.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is suing him over MF Global’s collapse and seeking civil fines and a commodity futures industry ban. MF Global settled related CFTC claims for $100 million.

Jonathan Stempel is a Reuters correspondent covering legal and regulatory affairs from New York.

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