WASHINGTON (The Blaze/AP) -- Jon Corzine told a congressional panel Thursday that he "never intended" to break rules requiring failed securities firm MF Global to safeguard client funds.
In fact, after having watched his testimony, one might come away believing that he never intended to do anything, ever. It was his "go-to" answer for just about every question thrown his way.
As predicted earlier on The Blaze, Corzine stuck to his prepared remarks and claimed that he didn't know what happened to the estimated $1.2 billion that went missing.
Corzine testified before the House Agriculture Committee for nearly three hours about the firm's bankruptcy, which followed disastrous bets on European debt that were made while Corzine was CEO.
Corzine deflected blame for the company's collapse. He argued that he inherited a firm already doomed by his predecessors' bad financial decisions. However, considering that in a little over a year Corzine successfully bankrupted an almost 230 year-old organization, that line of defense may not work.
He appeared strained and at times grasped for words. Corzine choose not to exercise his Fifth Amendment right but instead engaged in what can only be described as a masterful performance of answering "yes" and "no" questions with non-answers.
"His answers were cautiously worded," writes the Associated Press. To many, that would seem to be a very polite way of saying "he answered by not answering."
He often said he couldn't recall or lacked access to materials needed for him to answer.
"I'm not in a position, given the number of transactions, to know anything specific about the movement of any specific funds," he said.
He also said he accepts responsibility for the firm's risky bets and said its customers' losses weigh on his mind "every day - every hour."
"I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date," Corzine reiterated on numerous occasions.
He said he can't say whether there were "operational errors" at MF Global or whether other companies have held onto money that should be returned to MF Global.
Corzine defended his tenure at the firm. He said MF Global toppled, in part, because of a large quarterly loss caused by his predecessors' accounting moves. Rating agencies responded to the loss by downgrading the firm's credit rating, which panicked investors and trading partners.
"The marketplace lost confidence in our firm," he said.
He said he made the high-stakes bets only after discussions with company executives who traded European debt long before he arrived. And he said that he reduced MF Global's investment risks by some measures.
Of course, several experts have challenged that assertion.
Janet Tavakoli, an expert on the transactions MF Global specialized in, said Corzine's remarks divert attention from the firm's fundamental flaw: It lacked the cash to cover its bets after investors started to fear that a major European nation would default.
"His entire testimony looks like a very skilled way to try to detract from that key issue," said Tavakoli, president of Tavakoli Structured Finance.
Lawmakers have heard from farmers, ranchers and small business owners in their districts who are missing money deposited with the firm.
Legal experts say Corzine could be held personally liable for misrepresenting to investors the risks the firm had taken. Other top MF Global executives also could face legal jeopardy, they say. Corzine will say Thursday that the company's board signed off on the investments and was aware of the risks involved.
Several class-action lawsuits on behalf of shareholders have been filed against Corzine and three other top executives. A bankruptcy court is consolidating the suits. They accuse the firm and its leaders of making false statements about MF Global's strength and cash balances.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.