Tracking the fortunes of Jon Corzine

By Laurie Bennett

October 31, 2011 at 12:45pm

Jon Corzine, businessman-turned-politician-turned businessman, is now an allegory.

For all his efforts at personal redemption, he has come to represent decline - of the global economy, of Democrats, of the public image of the Top One Percent.

On Monday, the brokerage he heads, MF Global Holdings, filed for bankruptcy protection.

Jon S. Corzine
Jon S. Corzine

The company is in such straits primarily because of Corzine’s bets on European bonds. The Wall Street Journal has described MF Global as the “biggest potential U.S. casualty so far” from Europe’s debt crisis.

While millions of people have suffered from the economic failures of the past four years, Corzine’s career has been buffeted in grand, public fashion.

After heading Goldman Sachs and losing an internal power struggle, he went into politics, elected as a U.S. senator in 2000 and as New Jersey governor in 2005.

Those were boom years, when the electorate looked favorably on wealthy business leaders. By 2009, after the meltdown, with New Jersey’s economy in freefall, his credentials had become a handicap.

He was defeated for re-election by Chris Christie, a Republican who repeatedly critized Corzine’s Wall Street connections.

Four months later, he joined MF Global. (For a good discussion about Corzine’s weakness for the big bet, see this Bloomberg video.)

A fundraiser for the Obama re-election campaign, Corzine is a member of Muckety’s Top One Percent, more influential than 99 percent of the people we profile.

He also ranks in the top percentage of wealth. In 2005, when he was running for governor of New Jersey, his personal fortune was estimated at $300 million.

Update: Corzine’s reputation is vulnerable for more reasons than high-risk investments and failure of the company. The New York Times reports that federal authorities are investigating whether the firm used client funds to support its own trades.

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