Jon Corzine downfall: Even after 2008, banking sector has untamed risks. (VIDEO)
And the firm's collapse came in a manner that echoed some of the problems seen in 2008 at companies like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers: unexpected losses followed by a loss of confidence among investors on whom the company relied.
When investors began withdrawing money, bankruptcy became unavoidable.
"Despite our best efforts to sell assets and generate liquidity, the marketplace lost confidence in the firm," Corzine said in his prepared testimony.
"I sincerely apologize," he said, "to our customers, our employees and our investors, who are bearing the brunt of the impact of the firm’s bankruptcy."
Since the financial crisis, federal agencies have sought to enhance oversight of financial firms, Congress has passed a sweeping regulatory reform act, and many banks have worked to strengthen their base of capital.
Yet economists say many issues linked to the financial crisis still simmer. The Thursday hearing, and the wider questions surrounding MF Global, symbolize some of those issues:
A culture of risk. Corzine sought to downplay the role that MF Global's big bets on euro-zone sovereign debt played in the firm's bankruptcy. He emphasized that the lion's share of the firm's $191.6 million loss, reported for the quarter that ended Sept. 30, came from a change in the value of tax losses from previous years. At the same time, outsiders have characterized the firm's strategy on sovereign debt as an aggressive one.
Leverage. Risk depends not only on how volatile a firm's investments are, but also on how big they are in relation to the capital base. Corzine said that during his two-year tenure he brought the leverage ratio down from 37-to-1 to 30-to-1. But that level is still high, and Corzine said he had hoped to reduce it further.