MF Global chief missing $1.2B is financial adviser to EPA
During two days of recent congressional hearings into how as much as $1.2 billion disappeared from MF Global customer accounts, the chief operating officer of the imploding investment firm responded again and again that he did not know.
Yet as the House and Senate interrogated Bradley I. Abelow and other top executives at MF Global Holdings Ltd., lawmakers did not mention Mr. Abelow’s role as a financial adviser for the Environmental Protection Agency, which as of Tuesday listed him as the chairman of its financial advisory board.
Even as he finds himself the public face of a bankruptcy and admitted to lawmakers that he had no idea how client funds disappeared, Congress and the administration have voiced no public concern about Mr. Abelow’s role advising the $8.6 billion government agency on its finances.
“EPA relying on Wall Street for financial guidance is like the blind leading the blind,” said Jeff Ruch, president of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington.
“In Abelow, you have a Wall Street executive who just presided over the disappearance of $1 billion in investor funds purporting to help guide federal infrastructure financing.”
When first questioned about Mr. Abelow’s ties to the EPA in early November, just after MF Global declared bankruptcy, EPA officials issued a short statement saying only that he was appointed as chairman of the board on March 10, 2010, and that he is not paid for his position.
Officials declined to say whether they were reviewing his continued service for the board.
The EPA’s financial advisory board was chartered in 1989 to “provide advice and analysis to EPA’s administrator on paying for the growing costs of environmental protection,” according to the EPA’s website. The agency says members include “prominent experts from all levels of government, including elected officials, the finance and banking communities, business and industry and national organizations.”
He has ties to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson through former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. Each served at different times as the governor’s chief of staff. When Mr. Corzine lost his bid for re-election and later joined MF Global, Mr. Abelow followed.
During his testimony to the House, Mr. Abelow said his total compensation at MF Global was a guaranteed $3 million. He joined the firm in September 2010 as chief operating officer, then was named president in March.
At appearances before House and Senate committees, Mr. Abelow expressed sorrow for the company’s more than 2,500 employees who are facing unemployment and investors who have been unable to recoup their funds.
“As the president and chief operating officer of MF Global, I am deeply sorry for the hardship they have all endured,” Mr. Abelow told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on Dec. 13.
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