CFTC to OK "Corzine rule" in wake of PFG -sources

Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:12am IST

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By Alexandra Alper

WASHINGTON, July 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. futures regulator is poised to approve a rule aimed at holding futures executives accountable for customer funds, days after a $220 million shortfall at PFGBest sent the futures broker spiraling into bankruptcy, two sources told Reuters.

The rule, which would require top executives at futures brokers to sign off on major withdrawals from customer accounts, has gotten the "ok" from at least three commissioners at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said the sources who were not authorized to speak on the record.

The measure, proposed by the National Futures Association, was dubbed the "Corzine rule," after the former CEO of MF Global. That firm collapsed last October after investors and customers became rattled over its multibillion-dollar bet on European sovereign debt and downgrades by credit rating agencies, resulting in a liquidity crunch.

An estimated $1.6 billion in customer funds went missing at MF Global.

The rule's approval may be welcome news to a futures industry still jittery after the failure of a second major brokerage less than nine months after MF Global's.

On Monday, the NFA froze funds at Iowa-based brokerage Peregrine Financial Group, which does business as PFGBest, after discovering an estimated $2 20 million sh ortfall in PFGBest's customer accounts.

A day later, the CFTC sued the brokerage, alleging PFG and its owner had defrauded customers and lied to regulators in order to hide the deficit.

Later that evening, Peregrine filed to liquidate under Chapter 7 of the U.S. bankruptcy code.

REFORM INCHES FORWARD

The NFA's board approved the proposed rule along with several others, and submitted them to the CFTC in May.

Under the proposed "Corzine rule," futures brokers would need to get written approval from the chief executive, the chief financial officer or another designated officer for the withdrawal of more than 25 percent of a customer's excess funds.

Excess customer funds are funds held by the broker above and beyond what is needed to back a customer's trades.

Under existing industry rules there is no limitation on the amount a broker could move from a customer's excess funds.

A CFTC spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

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