MF Global and brokerage account security

You’ve probably seen that MF Global, one of the big brokers in futures, options, CFDs and other derivatives has gone bust. While we haven’t heard all the details yet, this seems like it might be a rather worrying case when it comes to the safety of your brokerage account.

MF Global went under because of trades it was making on its own account (known as proprietary or ‘prop’ trading). Specifically, it had bought European sovereign bonds on high leverage and couldn’t make the margin calls when these fell in value (fuller details at the FT).

This was an extremely stupid thing to do, but it was MF Global’s own bet. It shouldn’t have mattered to clients.