MF Global trustee sees shortfall of $1.6 billion

The trustee overseeing MF Global’s liquidation said Friday that the shortfall between the funds under his control and the amount customers of the failed brokerage are expected to claim is at least $1.6 billion.

The gap estimated by the court-appointed trustee, James Giddens, compares with his previous estimate of $1.2 billion. Giddens said in a statement Friday that the new estimate is based on his investigation and it could change again.

Giddens has been combing through the accounts of MF Global since it filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 31. The collapse of MF Global, which was headed by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, was the eighth-largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Most of the $1.2 billion previously reported missing has been traced to customer accounts and banks. Regulators are investigating whether MF Global tapped money from clients’ accounts as its financial condition worsened. That would violate securities laws. Brokerages are required to keep customer money separate from the firm’s money.

Unlike the previous figure, the new estimate of $1.6 billion includes about $700 million in customer money located in Britain. Giddens is in a legal dispute over that money with the administrator in Britain overseeing the liquidation of MF Global’s division in London.

The new estimate excludes some customer claims that haven’t been filed yet. It also takes into account some funds that have been recovered since the earlier estimate was made in November.

Giddens said about 40 percent of the claims filed by U.S. commodities customers of MF Global came from five states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. Around 91 percent of the claims are for less than $100,000, according to his statement.

Much of the missing money belonged to farmers, ranchers and other business owners who used MF Global to reduce their risks from the fluctuating prices of commodities such as corn and wheat.

Giddens has returned about $3.9 billion to customers.

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