today, in a unanimous vote, "The U.S. futures regulator approved on Monday a rule that puts tighter limits on how brokerage firms can use customer funds, a measure that the now-bankrupt MF Global had encouraged the agency to delay." In other words, while before commingling client accounts was assumed to be a clear violation of every logical fiduciary imperative, now it is set in stone. For real. The CFTC means it.
In the past, I believed that a lot of financial regulations were honest (though often misguided) attempts to create transparent and trustworthy markets. I am increasingly being pushed to the cynical conclusion that financial regulations, like, say, licensing of funeral homes, are mainly aimed at making it impossible for small competitors to survive, while larger competitors either have the scale to pay for compliance departments, or in the case of MF Global, have the political muscle to get themselves exempted (by Administrations of both parties, I should be clear, though the current one certainly gets a hypocrisy award for standing beside OWS while handing out finance and health care law exceptions to the powerful).
MF Global is far worse in my mind than, say, Enron. In Enron's case, the management was at least mostly pursuing the activities and investments that they were supposed to be pursuing. They were making bets of the type shareholders expected, though they were likely masking the cost and risk of these bets by aggressive pushes at the margins of accounting rules.
MF Global was doing exactly what everyone supposedly knew to be an absolute no-no, ie using client funds to make leveraged bets for their own account. If Joe Schmoe in Florida did the same thing, he would already be incarcerated. In the case of MF Global, no one even seems to be interviewing Corzine and so far the bankruptcy committee has put a higher priority on repaying JP Morgan and Goldman for Corzine's bad bets than on getting investors' money back.