NFA's Dan Roth talks PFGBest fraud at House hearing

TESTIMONY OF DANIEL J. ROTH, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER NATIONAL FUTURES ASSOCIATION, BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                                                                                July 25, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  My name is Daniel Roth and I am the president of National Futures Association.  For years the futures industry has built an impeccable reputation for safeguarding customer funds deposited at FCMs in connection with futures trading.  Now, for the second time in just nine months, we are dealing with a shortfall in customer segregated funds at an FCM.  Once again, customers have suffered real harm, the type of harm that all regulators attempt to prevent.

The full facts are not yet known, but it appears that Peregrine's customer losses are the result of an elaborate fraud achieved through a set of forgeries and falsities rooted in both the firm's external and internal financial records.  Forged external records included bank statements, bank confirmations, print-outs of daily online summary reports of bank balances, cashier's checks, bank acknowledgement letters, bank deposit tickets and bank receipts all purportedly from US Bank.  The firm's internal financial records, including daily and month-end account reconciliations, general ledgers and trial balances were also false to the extent they were based on forged US Bank records.  Moreover, Peregrine submitted to NFA false daily segregation reports, monthly financial statements and segregated investment detail reports, and annual certified financial statements.  Even the firm's customer statements were false to the extent the firm led customers to believe that sufficient assets were on deposit to cover customers' liabilities. 

I would like to review for this committee the recent chronology of events surrounding the Peregrine fraud, the fundamental changes that need to be made in the way we protect customer funds and monitor firms for compliance with the rules, how we are going to make those changes and the steps we have already taken.

NFA began an examination of Peregrine in mid-June.  During the audit, we informed Peregrine staff that NFA was changing its method for obtaining bank confirmations to a web-based e-confirmation process.  We had completed the necessary data entry for this process by the first week in July, and told Peregrine staff that the firm must authorize its participation in the e-confirmation process.  On Sunday, July 8, Mr. Wasendorf, the Chairman of Peregrine, provided the required authorization that was sent to him a week earlier.  The next day he attempted suicide. 

As of the close of business on July 6th, the previous Friday, Peregrine had reported to us that the firm was holding approximately $380 million in customer segregated funds, with just over half of that amount on deposit at US Bank.  On July 9th, Peregrine notified the CFTC and NFA of Wasendorf's attempted suicide and we immediately joined in a teleconference with Peregrine staff.  We directed firm personnel to go to the bank and have the bank manager join the conference call to confirm the balances as of the previous Friday.  The bank manager informed us that the actual balance in the account was approximately $5 million. 

We then asked about the balances on the dates for which NFA had received written bank confirmations in our two most recent audits—in 2010 and 2011.   Those bank confirmation requests had been mailed by NFA to the P.O. Box on the purported bank acknowledgment letter we had received for the customer segregated account.  (In our experience, it is not at all uncommon for banks holding customer segregated funds to use P.O. Boxes to receive confirmation requests since it is a means for them to control the vast amount of paperwork they receive.)  In this case, the bank manager informed us that the balances reflected on the two most recent confirmations received by NFA in 2010 and 2011 were similarly inflated. 

NFA immediately issued an emergency Member Responsibility Action, freezing the firm's accounts and restricting it to trading for liquidation only.  That night the firm's clearing FCM issued margin calls that were not met and began liquidating open positions.  The next day the CFTC filed its injunctive action and the firm filed its bankruptcy petition.  By then approximately 98% of customer futures positions had been liquidated.

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