Federal authorities investigating the collapse of MF Global have uncovered e-mails that detail the transfers of money in the firm’s last days, including transfers that contained customer money, according to people close to the investigation.
One e-mail chain refers to the transfer of roughly $200 million that MF Global owed JPMorgan Chase on Oct. 28 — the firm’s last business day before it filed for bankruptcy. In that chain, a senior official in the firm’s Chicago office was told to make the transfer, said the people close to the investigation who requested anonymity because the inquiry was still open.
That official, Edith O’Brien, a treasurer at MF Global, is considered a “person of interest” in the investigation, said two of the people, who added that authorities expected to interview her in the coming days. It was not clear who had directed Ms. O’Brien, whose job was to oversee the customer money, to make the Oct. 28 transfer. The roughly $200 million that JPMorgan Chase received is said to be entirely customer money.
Ms. O’Brien has hired a prominent criminal defense lawyer, Reid H. Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson, according to one of the people. Ms. O’Brien has not been accused of any wrongdoing. And there is no indication that she had reason to suspect that the money being transferred included customer money.
MF Global’s sloppy recordkeeping and a flurry of transactions in its final days may have obscured the fact that the firm was dipping into the cash of farmers, traders and hedge funds to cover its own needs.
Still, the interest in Ms. O’Brien and the e-mails suggest that, nearly two months after some $1 billion in customer money went missing, investigators have identified employees who may have played an important and perhaps unwitting role in the improper use of customer money.