Distressed debt buyers put low value on PFGBest

Peregrine's assets frozen

July 12 (Bloomberg) -- Customers’ claims on PFGBest, whose founder is accused by regulators of misappropriating more than $200 million, may fetch less than a quarter of their value in the wake of the firm’s bankruptcy, a trader said.

Quotes of 22 cents on the dollar to 25 cents were given to half a dozen Peregrine customers yesterday who called CRT Capital Group LLC, which buys and sells distressed debt, said Joseph Sarachek, managing director of claims trading. He is being “deluged” by calls today, he said. By comparison, bankrupt MF Global Inc.’s U.S. claims have always sold in the high 70s, he said.

Peregrine filed for bankruptcy July 10 after the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission sued alleging the brokerage and its founder, Russell Wasendorf Sr., “used customer funds for purposes other than those intended by its customers, and consequently, have misappropriated these funds.” False reports on customer funds were also filed with the CFTC, the regulator said.

“This is much messier than MF Global because it appears there is fraud involved, based on the CFTC complaint,” Sarachek said.

Wasendorf, 64, tried to asphyxiate himself July 9 in the parking lot of Peregrine’s offices near a country club in Cedar Falls, Iowa, police say.

A judge ordered a freeze of Peregrine’s assets at the CFTC’s request. The brokerage offered futures, cash, foreign exchange and options on futures trading.

Steeply Discounted

The missing money is about half of Peregrine’s customer funds, according to regulators. The steeply discounted prices for claims show uncertainty about how long it will take to get paid whatever money can be recovered, said Brian Coppola, a trader of distressed debt at hedge fund Fulcrum Capital in Austin, Texas.

“You have to figure out how many cents are going to come back to the estate and how long it will take,” he said. “Even if you can see 50 cents coming back, it could take five years. There are going to be lawsuits that hold up the distributions.”

Fulcrum, which is looking for larger Peregrine claims, is quoting prices in the low 20s, Coppola said. Most of the claims up for sale now have a face value of less than $200,000, he said.

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