Andrew Abraham

andy-0101 My name in Andrew Abraham. I have been investing in commodities and managed futures since 1994. I adhere to the philosophy of trend following. Trend following stresses a disciplined approach to commodity/ futures trading. Successful trend following and commodity futures investing requires patience, discipline and actively managing the risk. What sets me apart from other traders is that I am not only concerned about the return on investment but how much risk I will have to tolerate to achieve my goals.

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MF Global fallout hits grain elevators

MF Global fallout hits grain elevators
By Tom Webb
twebb@pioneerpress.com
Updated: 11/09/2011 10:14:25 PM CST

The collapse of MF Global is sending shockwaves across rural Minnesota, where grain elevators and some farmers are stunned to find their commodity accounts threatened by the distant scandal.

Although relatively few Minnesotans directly used the trading services of MF Global, the failed derivatives broker played a larger behind-the-scenes role in commodities futures trading. That has spread the fallout from the collapse, and some Minnesotans are alarmed to find a portion of their commodity accounts have been frozen – and seem to be at risk.

“Minnesota’s farmers, co-ops and grain elevators trusted this company with their accounts, and it appears that their money was mismanaged and possibly lost,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

In a letter to federal regulators, Franken said Minnesota elevators are worried that those losses “could put them out of business” and that any “large loss of equity for grain elevators would have cascading effects on rural Minnesota’s economy, affecting everyone from large cooperatives to small farmers.”

Federal regulators held a teleconference Wednesday with Franken, state farm officials and representatives of worried elevators and farmers.

Bob Zelenka, executive director of Minnesota Grain and Feed, said 86 percent of the money in affected commodity accounts has been released but that plenty of worries remain.

“We’re still frustrated, and we still have a lot of concerns about recovering 100 percent of our money,”

Zelenka said, “but they were certainly reassuring that they’re doing everything they can do find the rightful owner and get it returned.”
Zelenka said that as far as he knows, “it’s a limited number of (Minnesota) elevators that are affected, but the amount of money at stake is pretty large.”

The Minnesotans involved in the mess are innocent victims, Zelenka said. The collapse of MF Global was triggered by the company’s disastrous bet on high-risk European debt. Commodity futures accounts should have been isolated from those problems, but that’s not what happened. The firm collapsed Oct. 31.

Franken notes that many of the Minnesotans affected by the collapse had no direct dealings with the company.

“These elevators held futures trading accounts with other trading firms, which in turn worked with MFGI and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange,” he wrote. “Some of these elevators were not even aware their accounts were tied up with MFGI until after the bankruptcy was announced.”

Meanwhile, MF Global’s direct customers were starting to regain access to their money in accounts frozen since Oct. 31.

The company that operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, or CME, and other futures exchanges said Wednesday that it’s taking longer than expected to comb through MF Global’s customers’ roughly 15,000 futures trading accounts and verifying each balance.

CME originally set a Tuesday deadline for releasing the $1.45 billion in the accounts. It said in a statement that the accounts are being released on a rolling basis and that the process is expected to be completed by the end of the week.

CME, which regulates companies such as MF Global that trade on its exchanges, has been conducting the review with staff of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court.

“We understand the frustration and the need for accurate information,” CME spokesman Michael Shore said. “We are working very closely with the regulators and the trustees to represent our customers’ interests.”

Tom Webb can be reached at 651-228-5428 . Follow him at twitter.com/TomWebbMN.


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