PricewaterhouseCoopers has agreed to pay $65 million to settle claims over its audits of the failed investment company MF Global.
The brokerage firm collapsed in October 2011 after former New Jersey Governor and Senator Jon Corzine took over as chairman and CEO in 2010 and pushed the firm to invest about $6.3 billion in risky sovereign debt from troubled countries in the Eurozone.
The firm ended up with $44.4 billion in liabilities and equity of just over $1.4 billion prior to its collapse. In the waning days, the firm apparently borrowed about $1.6 billion from customer accounts to try to cover up the shortfall, although the funds were later reimbursed.
MF Global had employed questionable transactions known as repo-to-maturity, using the sovereign debt bonds as collateral for the loans it took out, while earning money from the spread between the rate on the bonds and the rate it paid to the counterparty on the financing.
The firm's shareholders sued PwC for its audits of MF Global in 2010 and 2011 that failed to detect problems with the firm's financials. PwC settled the lawsuit for $65 million last week without admitting wrongdoing.
“PwC is pleased to resolve this matter and avoid the cost and distraction of prolonged securities litigation,” said PwC spokesperson Caroline Nolan. “The firm stands behind its audit work and its opinions on MF Global’s financial statements.”
Another lawsuit against PwC, from MF Global's bankruptcy administrator, for $1 billion accusing the firm of professional malpractice remains unresolved, according to Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. Investors also have other claims outstanding against Corzine and other former MF Global executives and directors.
Last week, Ernst & Young settled a separate lawsuit for $10 million with the New York Attorney General's office over its audits of Lehman Brothers, another failed investment firm that also misused repo accounting (see Ernst & Young Will Pay $10 Million to End N.Y. Lehman Suit).
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