U.S. senators plan to press regulators Thursday on whether they were asleep at the switch as now-bankrupt MF Global took on massive risky bets, and why hundreds millions of dollars in customer funds are still missing.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler is one of the regulators called to testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee, in the first major congressional hearing about MF Global since it filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31.
While Gensler will be able to answer some questions about the CFTC's MF Global probe, many inquiries are expected to be directed toward Jill Sommers, a Republican commissioner, who is overseeing the agency's investigation after Gensler recused himself in early November.
Mary Schapiro, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, also is expected to testify.
``The public is still in the dark on basic facts,'' said Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican on the Agriculture Committee. ``I hope the committee will be able to get some direct answers from Chairman Gensler and Chairman Schapiro.''
MF Global collapsed in late October after the firm was forced to reveal that it had made a $6.3 billion bet on European sovereign debt.
An effort to sell the firm failed, partially due to the revelation that hundreds of millions of dollars in customer money was not where it should have been.
Investigators have been scouring the company's books, described as messy and unorganized. The fund shortfall has been estimated at up to $1.2 billion by the liquidating trustee, but regulators believe that figure is too high.
Regulators and law enforcement officials are trying to determine what happened to the money and whether MF Global may have improperly mixed customer funds with the firm's own funds -- a major violation of industry rules.
The SEC is also conducting a broad review into how the firm conducted business.
Originally the Thursday hearing was supposed to examine how each agency is doing in implementing last year's Dodd-Frank Wall Street overhaul law.
``I have critical questions about Dodd-Frank implementation which is what the hearing is about,'' Senator Pat Roberts, the panel's ranking Republican, told Reuters. ``However, given the extraordinary situation with MF Global, I plan to ask Chairman Gensler about his recusal and his oversight leading up to the bankruptcy.''