Something to inspire your Friday: The story of a 30-year-old from Sunrise, Florida, who’s defying Wall Street — and not getting hit with a nightstick for it.
Who is James Koutoulas and how did this 30-year-old end up leading the charge to recover more than $1 billion for customers from one of Wall Street’s biggest bankruptcies?
By Leah McGrath Goodman, contributor
FORTUNE — James Koutoulas walked into one of the worst bankruptcies in U.S. history with almost zero legal experience.
“When I got up the first day in bankruptcy court and saw the look on the judge’s face, I couldn’t blame him,” he says. “Bankruptcy court is a rich man’s club where everyone is old, so I stood out. Honestly, when I’m shaved, I look like I’m about 12.”
Yet Koutoulas, 30, may be one of the only former customers of MF Global, the now-defunct futures brokerage house, with the gumption to publicly object to the way they are being treated. Since filing for bankruptcy Oct. 31, MF Global’s woes have rapidly piled up – chief among them losing an estimated $1 billion-plus of customer funds. The loss directly crimped the wallets of some of the futures market’s most active participants, from small-time farmers to ranchers to hedge funds.
Koutoulas, chief executive of three-year-old commodities fund Typhon Capital Management, stumbled into the courtroom drama accidentally. His Chicago firm, which conducts the bulk of its business in the futures market, discovered shortly after MF Global’s bankruptcy that $55 million of its $70 million under management had been dragged into the proceedings. This was a surprise, because, by law, customer funds are supposed to be kept completely segregated from a brokerage firm’s own assets. That wasn’t the case with MF Global. For Koutoulas and tens of thousands of other MF customers, it was a rude awakening.
“My goal is real simple: getting everybody’s money back,” he says. Continue reading The Boy Wonder At The Heart Of A Disaster