- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2011

As chairman of the Environmental Protection Agency’s financial advisory board, Bradley Abelow is charged with giving advice on investment and job creation to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

But Mr. Abelow’s day job overseeing MF Global Holdings Ltd. has placed him in the middle of a growing firestorm over billions of dollars in risky investments that have plunged the company into one of the largest bankruptcies in history.

The Oct. 31 bankruptcy was just the start of the bad news. Since then, MF Global’s chief executive, former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, has resigned, reports have surfaced about nearly $600 million in missing customer cash and an FBI probe into the company has begun.

Mr. Abelow, who worked as chief of staff for Mr. Corzine while he was governor, oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, according to court filings.

Asked about the status of Mr. Abelow’s chairmanship of the board on which EPA relies for financial advice, in light of MF Global’s collapse, EPA officials declined to comment.

“Bradley Abelow was appointed chair of the Environmental Advisory Board on March 10, 2010,” EPA press secretary Betsaida Alcantara wrote in an email to The Washington Times. “Mr. Abelow is not paid for his position” as chairman of the financial advisory board.

But Ms. Alcantara declined to comment on how Mr. Abelow was selected for the position or on whether EPA is reviewing his role as a financial adviser to the administrator amid reports of a federal investigation of MF Global.

Mr. Abelow did not commit to remaining on the board when contacted through a company spokeswoman Tuesday.

“Given his increased time commitment to MF Global, Mr. Abelow is reviewing all of his outside commitments and obligations,” company spokeswoman Diana DeSocio wrote in an email to The Times.

According to bankruptcy court filings, Mr. Abelow oversees day-to-day execution of company strategy and “holds direct responsibility for risk, operations, client services,” among other activities.

Prodded by regulators, the company announced Oct. 25 that it had about $6.3 billion in debt from some of Europe’s most troubled countries, including Ireland, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Portugal. Fueled by concerns about “eurozone sovereign debt,” credit-rating services downgraded MG Global’s ratings to “junk” status, Mr. Abelow said in a court affidavit. Days later, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Mr. Abelow said the company’s ultimate goal is to reorganize under bankruptcy protection, but in the short term seeks to “maintain a business as usual atmosphere” with “as little interruption or disruption … as possible,” according to the bankruptcy filing.

Hired in September 2010 as chief operating officer, Mr. Abelow became president of the company in March. He served as state treasurer in New Jersey before taking a job as Mr. Corzine’s chief of staff.

Like Mr. Corzine, Mr. Abelow is a veteran not only of New Jersey government but of Goldman Sachs, where he was a partner and managing director. Also like Mr. Corzine, he has been a generous political donor, giving more than $90,000 to Democratic candidates and causes since 2007, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The donations included a $30,800 donation in June to the Democratic National Committee and $10,000 last year to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He also donated $2,500 to President Obama’s 2012 campaign and $2,300 to his 2008 campaign.

Mr. Abelow also has ties to Ms. Jackson, who served under Mr. Corzine as commissioner in charge of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection.

As chairman of the Environmental Advisory Board, Mr. Abelow is in charge of a little-known, federally chartered board that advises EPA and is backed by the EPA’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

In December, the board issued a paper to the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response on what it called “important questions” concerning financial assurance requirements for programs operating under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

In the paper, Mr. Abelow and other board members noted the importance of having accurate estimates for closure, post-closure, corrective and remedial action in the RCRA and Superfund programs.

“Underestimates put the taxpayer, communities and potentially other businesses in jeopardy in the event of a default,” the paper warned.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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