Articles Posted in Peregrine Financial Group

According to Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler, the customers of Peregrine Financial Group, also called PFG Best, were failed by the system, which neglected to protect them. Peregrine’s owner Russell R. Wasendorf Sr. is accused of embezzling close to $220M and defrauding clients. You can read an earlier post written by our investment fraud law firm about the CFTC’s lawsuit against Peregrine and Wasendorf on our site.

Per the Regulator’s securities case, the futures commission merchant and Wasendorf allegedly misappropriate client monies and submitted untrue statements in the financial statements they turned in to the CFTC. They also are accused of misrepresenting, during a National Futures Association audit, that Peregrine held over $200M in client funds when that figure was actually close to around $5.1 million. The regulator is not sure what happened to the rest of the money and is accusing both Wasendorf and the futures commission merchant of violating fund segregation laws with their alleged intentional deception of the NFA.

Gensler says that the CFTC will look at how NFA handles its responsibilities as they relate to the FCM and whether the CFTC does a good job in regulating the SRO. However, while noting during testimony front of the Senate Agriculture Committee on July 17 that the allegations against Wasendorf and Peregrine, if true, are crimes, he said that is not possible for market regulators to “prevent all financial fraud.” Gensler also talked about how the SRO system is part of the Commodity Exchange Act but that the CFTC doesn’t have enough funds to act as front-line regulator over the NFA, which is funded by dues.

The CFTC will review how NFA dealt with Peregrine examinations. NFA has hired a law firm to conduct its own review of audit procedures and practices, particularly those involving the exams for Peregrine.

Meantime, Peregrine’s bankruptcy trustee, Ira Bodenstein, has retained forensic accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers to assist in determining how much of customers’ money is left. These clients have expressed frustration at the delays in their being able to recover even some of their funds. According to Michael Eidelman, who is the receiver for the assets of Wasendorf, a portion of the missing cash may be in property that can be sold so that some Peregrine customers can get their money back. (These clients haven’t tried to sell their claims against Peregrine because they still don’t know the extent of the firm’s liabilities and assets.)

The Peregrine securities fraud was confirmed after Wasendorf tried to kill himself on July 9. In his suicide note, he talked about how he bilked clients of over $100 million during a period lasting close to 20 years. He admitted that he used a rented PO box, inkjet printers, and Photoshop software to execute his scam. He also forged documents to hide the missing funds.

Scandal Shakes Trading Firm,
The Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2012

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The CFTC is accusing Peregrine Financial Group and its owner Russell R. Wasendorf, Sr. of misappropriating client monies, including statements that were untrue in financial statements submitted to the CFTC, and violating customer fund segregation laws. The Commission filed its securities fraud complaint against the registered futures commission merchant in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Per the CFTC’s complaint, during an audit by the National Futures Association, Peregrine misrepresented that it was holding more than $200M of client funds when it only held about $5.1M. The regulator says that the whereabouts of this at least $200 million in customer fund shortfall are not known at this time. In the wake of the allegations, Peregrine has told its clients that it was being investigated for “accounting irregularities.”

The Commission contends that beginning at least 2/2010 until now, Peregrine and Wasendorf did not meet CFTC Regulations and the Commodity Exchange Act by not maintaining enough client money in accounts that were segregated. The brokerage and its owner also are accused of making false statements about the funds that were being segregated for clients that were trading on US Exchanges in required filings.

Wasendorf, who reportedly tried to kill himself on Monday is now in a coma. The NFA just recently was given information that he may have been responsible for a number of falsified bank records.

The CFTC wants a restraining order to preserve records, freeze assets,, and establish a receiver. It is seeking disgorgement, restitution, financial penalties, and other appropriate financial relief.

Yesterday, Peregrine’s clearing broker Jefferies Group Inc. said that it had started unloading positions held for the futures brokerage’s clients after a margin call was not met. Jeffries Group doesn’t expect to sustain losses.

Meantime, the NFA and “other officials, have frozen all customer funds and Peregrine is not allowed to accept or solicit new client funds or accounts or make trades for customers unless it involves liquidating positions or distributing their money. Also looking into this financial matter is the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It was just this year that a court-appointed receiver in Minnesota sued Peregrine over allegedly disregarding warning signs that the futures brokerage’s client Trevor Cook was running a Ponzi scam. According to the securities lawsuit, investments by Cook and others with Peregrine that were supposedly profitable sustained over $30 million in losses as the allegedly culpable participants moved about $48 million from clients to Peregrine accounts.

According to Fox Business, the fallout from these latest allegations against Peregrine could be bigger than the MF Global collapse as traders blame regulators for not doing enough and industry members fight to recapture investor confidence.

CFTC Files Complaint Against Peregrine Financial Group, Inc. and Russell R. Wasendorf, Sr. Alleging Fraud, Misappropriation of Customer Funds, Violation of Customer Fund Segregation Laws, and Making False Statements
, CFTC, July 10, 2012

Peregrine Financial Allegedly Has $200 Million Shortfall, Bloomberg, July 10, 2012

PFG Scandal Deepens as CFTC Files Claim, Fox Business News/Reuters, July 10, 2012

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