Part VI

The MF Global Bankruptcy

Imagine that your life savings are tucked away in a fireproof safe, a safe secured with a series of chains and combination locks. The savings are the direct result of your correct decision to take charge of your own financial future by not relying on others to invest your capital. Now imagine that the safe is surrounded by a dozen people whose sole purpose in life is to guard it, all of whom are holding hands and staring at it. Now imagine that the safe is ransacked and burned beyond recognition without anyone noticing. Sound implausible or impossible?

Well, on October 31, 2011, such is essentially what happened to customer accounts at MF Global, when one of the largest derivatives brokerage firms in the world—my brokerage firm—experienced a colossal meltdown due to the combined ineptitude on the part of the company, its executives, industry regulators, and exchanges. At a minimum, the events that unfolded reflected pure recklessness and momentary loss of industry integrity and trust. At a maximum . . . well, suffice it to say that I'll leave that to the judicial system, although you can fill in the blanks using any number of verbs, adjectives, and pronouns.

This event had a profound effect on both me and the industry and shook our respective souls to their very cores. And like the flash crash of 2010, it's no exaggeration to say that the aftershocks of this earthquake are still reverberating and will likely be felt in some way as long as humanity ...

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