The fruitless inquisition of Jon Corzine
The hearing had barely begun, but Jon Corzine was already bracing himself for the onslaught.
“Mr. Corzine — Governor, Senator. ... I don’t know what to call you exactly,” said Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
“A lot of people have bad names,” Corzine replied.
The former New Jersey governor (and senator) surprised some by deciding to testify before the House Agriculture Committee today about the failure of MF Global, the firm he formerly led, declining to take the Fifth. But he ultimately failed to provide any revelatory clues about what happened to $1.2 billion of customer funds that disappeared — and whether he was at all responsible.
Instead, Corzine simply passed the buck when it came to handling the money that had disappeared, his head bowed, speaking in slow, pained tones. Corzine denied any responsibility for mishandling the funds, while explaining how it could have happened under his watch — and possibly as a result of his actions — anyway.
“There were people who handle the transfer of funds and I’m not one of those. I never intended to authorize anyone ... ” Corzine said, trailing off.
“You never intended to but you did anyway?” asked Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.).
“If there was, it was not intentional,” Corzine said — an answer that perhaps only a defense attorney could love.
Irked by Corzine’s non-responses, other members of Congress tried other ways to force details out of him — quizzing him even about his bodily functions on the day he found out the customer money was missing. What happened at that very moment he found out, Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza asked. “Did you call the police? Did you run to the bathroom and throw up?” Corzine replied that he simply experienced “stunned disbelief” about the missing money.
Cardoza wasn’t satisfied. “Did you call and tell your CFO? Expletive, Expletive, Expletive, where is the money?”
“I was the CFO,” Corzine admitted.
In the end, Corzine’s testimony did little to shed any new light into the MF Global mess — or whether regulators had missed the mark in doing so. Instead, it was a form of political theater that brought a former congressman before his peers to express some contrition for what had happened. That much came through, at least.
“I sense your pain,” said Rep. Austin Scott, a freshman Republican from Georgia. “This is one of the things your life will be judged by.”