WASHINGTON (AP) — After countless new rules designed to make Wall Street safer, it's come to this: Another securities firm has collapsed from risky, poorly disclosed bets.

Not enough, in other words, has changed since the U.S. financial system nearly toppled three years ago.

The bankruptcy filing last week by MF Global Holdings Ltd. didn't freeze lending and panic investors around the world, as Lehman Brothers' did in 2008. But the rapid fall of the firm run by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine shows risky behavior persists, despite a vast regulatory overhaul.

As lenders abandon Italy this week and stocks plummet on fear that defaults in Europe are all but inevitable, those new rules are about to be put to the test. One question no one can answer: Is the financial system, with its expanding web of connections that even experts can't trace, any safer?

"People are making the same dumb bets," says investor Michael Lewitt of Harch Capital, who calls Washington's new rules inadequate.

MF Global's collapse suggests that:

n Financial companies are making risky bets with borrowed money and hiding them off their balance sheets. In MF Global's case, scant disclosure made it harder for people to see the danger until it was too late.

n Those bets are being made with their own money, but threatening customers and trading partners. Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street overhaul passed last year, focused on big, complex financial companies whose failure could topple other firms. The law bans these "systemically important" companies from making such bets with their own money, called proprietary trading. But it does little about smaller financial firms like MF Global.

n Many financial companies operate without coordinated oversight by regulators. MF Global was watched over by several regulators. But no one was in charge of coordinating them. Financial companies, aside from the biggest, face the same patchwork oversight that failed to stop risky bets before the financial crisis.

The bust of MF Global itself is not an indictment of the new rules. Dodd-Frank wasn't designed to prevent all financial failures. In fact, some failures can be healthy if they discourage investors from taking on excessive risk.

But MF Global's collapse brought heavy costs. It caused millions in losses for investors. It threw commodity markets into disarray. And it left customers confused and angry because $593 million of their money is missing.

"The question for regulators is, 'How did this happen?'" says David Kotok, a money manager at Cumberland Advisors. "Could we have seen it coming?" The answer: Yes — but you had to look hard.

MF Global failed after buying billions of European government bonds on a hunch they were less risky than many investors assumed. The trouble wasn't so much the bet itself. It was how the firm disclosed it and financed it.

MF Global didn't recognize those bonds on its balance sheet for all to see. Instead, they were shunted "off-balance sheet," their presence noted deep in its financial statements. Some separate filings with regulators excluded them entirely.

This sleight-of-hand was possible thanks to an accounting maneuver used by Lehman to hide its debt before it failed: Instead of holding onto the bonds it had just bought, MF Global "sold" them to other companies in exchange for cash — with the promise to buy them back later.

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