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Ex-MF Global CFO tapped for Fidelity unit board

By Tim McLaughlin

BOSTON (Reuters) - An exclusive group of funds at Fidelity Investments is seeking shareholder approval to extend the brief tenure of a former executive of MF Global Holdings Ltd on a board that oversees billions of dollars in assets, according to regulatory filings.

Independent trustees for Strategic Advisers Inc, a unit of Fidelity, had appointed Amy Butte Liebowitz, a former MF Global chief financial officer and board member, as a director in September, and want her reelected at a January 20 meeting in Boston.

Liebowitz earned plaudits at MF Global for helping raise about $2.9 billion in a July 2007 initial public offering. But just months later, some investors accused the company of misrepresenting its risk management prowess in IPO registration documents she and other top executives signed.

Strategic Advisers manages about $98 billion in assets. Its funds are not open to the public, but exclusive to clients enrolled in Fidelity's customized Portfolio Advisory Service.

Liebowitz declined to comment for this story. Fidelity spokesman Vincent Loporchio said she was recruited for her significant experience in business and finance.

Liebowitz represents a link to MF Global's short-lived honeymoon as a publicly traded company. Even before MF Global's collapse into bankruptcy on October 31, the company had been repeatedly cited for lax risk controls.

During her tenure of about 17 months, MF Global and its divisions were ordered to pay more than $75 million in restitution and settlements over regulatory violations. Liebowitz, however, was not personally accused of any violations. In a December 2007 settlement involving the collapse of a Philadelphia hedge fund, the alleged violations happened before Liebowitz joined MF Global and its predecessor company.

Just months before Liebowitz became a trustee for Strategic Advisers' funds, MF Global agreed to pay $2.5 million of a $90 million in a preliminary settlement to resolve a shareholder lawsuit that accused the company of lax risk management over a rogue wheat trader in February 2008.

Liebowitz and other former MF Global executives were defendants in the civil case in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. In court papers, they denied any wrongdoing.

The dispute preceded Jon Corzine, who became MF Global's CEO in 2010 and led the company's collapse with wrong-way bets on European debt.

Without explanation, Liebowitz, 43, abruptly quit MF Global in January 2008, just before the rogue trader case helped push the company's stock down 94 percent that year, wiping out $3 billion in shareholder equity. The trades happened about a month after Liebowitz left the company. But some investors pounced on MF Global with lawsuits, alleging that the company senior management team, including Liebowitz, glossed over a shaky risk management system when they took the company public in 2007.

A Wall Street veteran and star financial-stocks analyst at Bear Stearns earlier in her career, Liebowitz joined MF Global in September 2006 to spearhead the spin-off and initial public offering of the former Man Financial from Man Group. As the CFO of the New York Stock Exchange, she helped the Big Board go public with its acquisition of Archipelago Holdings Inc.

As part of her separation from MF Global, she received a $3 million transition payment and IPO-related restricted stock worth about $11.5 million at the time, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

About a month after Liebowitz left the company, MF Global's credibility as a risk manager suffered a major blow.

On February 27, 2008, an MF Global broker made more than 100 trades from his home computer, placing a bet of nearly $1 billion to buy thousands of wheat futures contracts, according to a lawsuit by several investors.

The next day, MF Global said it would take a $141.5 million loss from those trades.

At MF Global, Liebowitz's base salary was $1 million. At Strategic Advisers she would receive about $80,000 a year to attend a handful of meetings for the funds.

After leaving MF Global, Liebowitz founded TILE Financial Inc, a financial education firm in Manhattan. The company's biography on her says she is a new mother and has four stepchildren.

(Reporting By Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Richard Chang, and Carol Bishopricu)

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