Senate Agriculture Panel Subpoenas Corzine Over Missing Billions

Former MF Global CEO Jon S. Corzine

Breaking protocol, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee voted unanimously today to compel former MF Global CEO Jon S. Corzine, a former senator, to appear at its Dec. 13 hearing on the collapse of the commodities brokerage he led.

The committee’s staff exhausted every opportunity to arrange Corzine’s testimony through his attorney, short of issuing a subpoena, said Sen. Deborah Ann Stabenow (D.-Mich.), who is up for reelection in 2012.

Corzine, who served in the Senate from 2001 to 2006 before his 2006 to 2010 term as the governor of New Jersey, missed both the committee’s deadline, and extension for an arrangement for his testimony, she said.

The former MF Global CEO resigned from the company November 4, after its Halloween bankruptcy filing. The resignation marked a phenomenal fall from grace for a man, who when he joined the company in March 2010, according to published reports, had a “key man” insurance policy taken out to protect MF Global against the risk of Corzine accepting a job in the Obama administration.

Stabenow said the work of the committee will be to find out what happened.

“We can’t keep waiting,” she said. “We must have answers.”

Beyond getting answers for the members of the committee, Corzine and his associates will have to provide answers to his firm’s victims, including the farmers, ranchers, co-ops, grain elevators and other clients, who may be missing up to $1.2 billion in unaccounted funds, she said.

“They want to know where their money is and they deserve answers,” Stabenow said.

After her statement, the chairwoman yielded to Sen. C. Patrick Roberts (R.-Kansas), the senior Republican on the panel.

It was a sad day for the Senate for a committee to subpoena a former member, he said.

“It is unprecedented in the history of the Senate agriculture committee,” he said.

“Staff has researched the issue, and as far as we can tell, no subpoena has ever been issued under the committee’s current rules.”

Roberts said the Senate historian has been unable to find another example of a former senator having to be compelled to testify before a Senate committee.

In addition to investigating MF Global, the committee needs to examine the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFBT), he said.

“This committee is directly responsible for the oversight of the CFBT,” he said.

“To conduct proper oversight requires the attendance of all witnesses, who can help us understand what happened,” he said.

Status and privilege as a former member of this body should not interfere in the committee’s ability to hear the testimony it needs to conduct its business, he said.

“I assure our colleagues, the chairwoman and I do not take this action lightly,” he said. “It is the only option available to us.”

After Roberts completed his statement, Stabenow resumed control of the meeting to conduct the vote on the motion to issue subpoenas.

The reading of the motion and unanimous vote in favor of issuing a subpoena to Corzine were all over in 10 seconds, and the meeting was adjourned.