By Linda Sandler and Tiffany Kary – Dec 9, 2011
An HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) unit sued the MF Global Inc. brokerage trustee to establish whether he or another person is the rightful owner of gold bars worth about $850,000 and silver bars underlying contracts between the brokerage and a client.
Five gold bars and 15 silver bars underlie eight Comex contracts between the brokerage and its client Jason Fane of Ithaca, New York, the unit of London-based HSBC said in a court filing yesterday. Both parties have asserted claims to the bars, creating difficulties for HSBC, which is storing them, the bank said. HSBC asked a judge to decide who the rightful owner is.
“HSBC has received conflicting instructions regarding ownership and disposition of the property,” it said. “Accordingly, HSBC is exposed to multiple liabilities with respect to the disposition of the properties.” The unit is HSBC Bank USA National Association.
Bullion is selling for about $1,717 an ounce on the Comex in New York, up about 21 percent this year, as investors bought the metal to protect their wealth from Europe’s escalating debt crisis, and reached a record $1,923.70 in September. Treasuries returned 9.3 percent, a Bank of America Corp. index shows.
‘Bars Are Mine’
“These bars are mine,” Fane said in an e-mail today. “We had a letter from HSBC that they were on the loading dock to be shipped to our warehouse contractor when there was some action taken by a third party to stop or delay shipment.”
The trustee, James Giddens, expects this “relatively minor and not unusual dispute” to be successfully resolved, his spokesman, Kent Jarrell, said in an e-mail.
Fane wrote HSBC after the bankruptcy, asking the bank to transfer the bars to his account at Brink’s, according to a copy of his letter filed in court. The trustee wrote HSBC saying the gold and silver was “customer property,” and the bank shouldn’t turn it over to Fane, HSBC said in the filing. Brink’s provides vaults and other services for the safekeeping of valuables.
The judge handling the bankruptcy said today that in January he would address the matter of distributing physical goods, such as gold and silver bars, after lawyers for some customers said they couldn’t get their share of the payouts because bars can’t be broken into pieces.
According to Fane’s letter, the five Comex gold contracts are for an average of 99 ounces of each.
Giddens, who is liquidating the brokerage, has transferred about 38,000 commodity accounts to other firms. Three transfers of collateral made and pending will give commodity customers more than $4 billion of their assets, according to court filings.
The parent company’s Oct. 31 bankruptcy filing, the eighth- largest in U.S. history, listed assets of $41 billion. Jon Corzine, the former co-chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., quit as MF Global’s CEO on Nov. 4.
The brokerage case is Securities Investor Protection Corp. v. MF Global Inc., 11-02790, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The parent’s bankruptcy case is MF Global Holdings Ltd., 11-bk-15059, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The HSBC case is HSBC Bank USA National Association v. Giddens et al., 11-02924-mg, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).