“Dude, where’s my car?” This was the famous question asked by the stoners in the 2000 movie called Dude, Where’s My Car?We ask the same question of Mr. Corzine: “Dude, where’s my $1.2 billion?” According to the USA Today, he recently testified that “I simply do not know where the money is” in front of Congress. Of course, this may be true. But the question is whether that will be enough to get him off the hook for civil and/or criminal claims that may arise from the downfall of MF Global.
Embezzlement is the first crime that comes to mind. In New York, there is no civil cause of action for embezzlement. But the state could bring a criminal case against Mr. Corzine if it could prove: (1) the $1.2 billion involved belonged to investors; (2) the money was converted or used for Mr. Corzine’s purposes; (3) Mr. Corzine was in a position of trust and possessed legal possession of (or access to) the money; and (4) the Mr. Corzine knowingly defrauded the owner of the property.
Of course, we don’t know the full factual picture of the situation with MF Global. But assume for the purpose of discussion that Mr. Corzine did not know where the money went, which roughly covers elements (2) and (4). Certainly some of his underlings knew. The issue in the case would then be whether their knowledge could, under the circumstances, be imputed to Mr. Corzine. After all, intent is generally a mental state that juries infer from the circumstances, since folks rarely state point blank: “now I know I am embezzling money and that what I am doing is illegal.” But it might be difficult to show that he knew or should have known what his underlings were doing, depending on how far down the totem pole they were and where the money ended up.
Regardless, it seems to run afoul of common sense that MF Global could not trace such a large amount of money as though they forgot in which parking spot they put the car at the shopping mall. Certainly, Mr. Corzine will face additional questioning from authorities. But what remains odd in the whole scenario is how they are approaching him with kid gloves. It seems if either dude in Dude, Where’s My Car? were overseeing an institution that misplaced such a large amount of money, they would likely be sitting in jail until the money was accounted for.