By Marcy Gordon
WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate panel has voted to subpoena former Sen. Jon Corzine to testify about his role leading MF Global.
The trading firm filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31 after a disastrous bet on European debt. Nearly $1.2 billion is estimated to be missing from customer accounts.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Corzine's testimony at the Dec. 13 hearing is essential to learn what happened. The vote comes just days after the House Agriculture Committee took similar action to force Corzine to appear at a hearing Thursday.
Corzine, a Democrat, represented New Jersey in the Senate from 2001 to 2005. He later served as the state's governor. It marks the first time a member of Congress has been forced to testify before his former peers since 1908.
Regulators are investigating whether MF Global used money from customers' accounts for its own needs as its financial condition worsened. That would violate securities rules. The FBI is also investigating to see if the firm violated any criminal laws.
"It's important that citizens come forward and testify when asked by our committee, especially in a matter this serious," said Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat.
A spokesman for Corzine didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Stabenow and other lawmakers say they've heard concerns raised by farmers, ranchers and small businessmen who use the futures markets to hedge against risks. Many said they've lost money that they had deposited with MF Global.
Corzine resigned as chairman and CEO of MF Global on Nov. 4.
Before serving in the Senate, he was CEO of Goldman Sachs from 1994 to 1999.
By law, anyone who is subpoenaed by a congressional committee must appear before it.
Corzine is likely to refuse at the hearings to answer lawmakers' questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination. Otherwise, his answers could come back to hurt him in criminal and civil investigations.