(Bloomberg News) Some of MF Global Inc.'s commodity customers can get an immediate distribution of $520 million, or about 60 percent of their cash collateral, a judge ruled.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn today approved a request to transfer the funds from James Giddens, the trustee overseeing the liquidation of the brokerage. The distributions may begin by Nov. 24, said Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Giddens. The parent, MF Global Holdings Inc., filed for bankruptcy to apportion returns to creditors. Nov. 24 is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.
At least 22,000 customers who only had cash in their MF Global accounts as of the time of its bankruptcy on Oct. 31 will get 60 percent of their $869 million on deposit. The transfers will now include investments considered "cash equivalents," such as Treasury bills. Glenn urged the trustee to seek a similar solution for customers who have a mix of cash and open positions in their accounts.
"I support trying to get as much money to as many people as soon as possible," Glenn said.
Customers had complained the distribution wouldn't be fair to those who had large amounts of cash and a small number of open positions in their accounts.
The trustee is considering a third transfer of funds for that category of customer, and will "true-up" accounts so all customers get similar treatment, James Kobak, a lawyer for the trustee, told Glenn. The cash distribution approved today follows a first transfer of around $1.5 billion in 14,500 customer accounts to other commodities futures merchants, and the total number of commodity customer accounts is around 38,000, according to Jarrell.
About $593 million of MF Global customer funds, or 11 percent, are unaccounted for, according to a person with knowledge of probes of the firm's collapse. Some customers had objected to today's motion, saying they should get closer to 80 percent distributions given the alleged 11 percent shortfall.
"If we can make further bulk transfers we will endeavor to do that, and intend to start the claims process quickly," Kobak said. He said yesterday that the trustee still needs to verify what the exact shortfall is, and only has access to $5 million in cash.
The distribution is possible because CME Group Inc., which runs the world's largest futures exchange, is providing $250 million in financial guarantees and $50 million in assets, Giddens said in his request.