Since MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection at the end of October, much of the media attention has been focused on the scandal of the $1.2 billion in investor money that the firm cannot account for. That money, which reportedly belongs to about 38,000 investors, may have been used for MF Global’s own (questionable) investments in European debt.
But now, as the end-of-year charity giving season is in its final throes, another kind of fallout from the MF Global bankruptcy is coming to light: its effect on charity donations. According to sources, the country’s eighth-largest bankruptcy is likely to affect charity giving in a number of ways:
- Individual donors who invested with MF Global and lost money (when the firm misplaced those funds) may be less likely to contribute to charities than they were in recent years. Because many smaller investors lost significant amounts of money (relative to their total net worth), tens of thousands of potential charity donations might have been wiped out by MF Global’s collapse.
- Corporate charity organized by the CME Group will likely not occur. In years past, sources note, the CME Group kept a trust (called the CME Trust) of $50 million to compensate investors who were unfortunately hooked into (and who lost money by) fraudulent investment schemes. In the past, most of that money got donated to charities at year’s end; this year, however, the entire trust went toward compensation of MF Global investors who lost money.
- Some charities invested money with MF Global. In addition to the individual clients who lost money, organizations (including nonprofits and charities) put their money with this firm, as it was meant to be a relatively safe investment option. Now the firm’s bankruptcy will translate to a direct loss of funds for charity investors.
Investors & Charitable Grants
It’s no secret that the wealthiest citizens of the U.S. are often the ones behind major charitable grants and donations. But few news sources have discussed the potential effect a major bankruptcy like MF Global’s, which includes debts of more than $39 billion, is likely to have on charitable organizations this year.
What is perhaps even more troubling is that this blow to charities comes during a time when individual donors have cut back on charitable contributions because of unemployment and reduced wages. Naturally, the persistently tough economy also means that more Americans than ever are in need of the support that charitable organizations traditionally offer.
In recent years, the CME Trust donated millions of dollars to Chicago-area educational institutions, including universities, charter schools, and organizations that fund education in the city. Without such donations, those and other groups could face significant financial difficulties in 2012.