This is certainly not the first time that NFA has taken emergency action in a fraud case involving forgery. We issue 8 to 10 Member Responsibility Actions per year, most after detecting some form of fraud, many of them Ponzi schemes. In most cases we uncover the fraud relatively quickly and close the firm before the losses mount too high. In a few cases, though, we have uncovered major frauds involving well over $100 million. Several of our cases, both large and small, have involved forged bank documents that were identified by our staff. What sets this case apart is that it involves a registered FCM, an elaborate, pervasive and convincing level of forgeries, and worst of all the loss of segregated customer funds.
This most recent case is an extremely painful reminder of the lessons we learned, and have acted on, after MF Global. The following points are clear:
- For our markets to thrive, customers must know that their funds are safe.
- It is the job of the regulators, both government regulators and SROs, to provide the public with the highest level of assurance possible.
- NFA followed audit steps developed by the Joint Audit Committee that were consistent with CFTC Financial and Segregation Interpretation No. 4-1 in all of our examinations of Peregrine. But to assure ourselves of that, a committee of our public directors has directed the commission of an internal review of our audit practices and procedures, and the execution of those procedures in the specific instance of Peregrine.
- Notwithstanding that, and notwithstanding it was NFA's actions that uncovered this fraud in our most recent exam, the simple fact is that Wasendorf's forgeries fooled us, and fooled us for longer than any of us would like.
- Our audit steps alone are not good enough anymore. We are implementing better ways to monitor members for compliance, especially with regard to customer segregated funds, and are looking for even more ways to improve monitoring of firms for compliance with the rules.
Shortly after the demise of MF Global, we formed an SRO Committee with the CME and representatives of other exchanges, including ICE, the Kansas City Board of Trade and the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. As discussed below, the SRO Committee developed a number of rule proposals that have already been approved by our Board. Early on in its deliberations, the committee recognized that we need to make better use of technology to monitor firms for compliance with segregation requirements.
The committee has developed a proposed rule that will be presented at NFA's August Board meeting that would require FCMs to provide online, view-only access to bank balances for customer segregated and secured amount accounts to the firm's designated SRO. We understand the CME will adopt the same rule. Under this rule, SROs will be able to check any customer segregated bank account balance for any FCM any time, without asking the firm or the bank, and compare those balances to the firm's daily segregation report. NFA intends to expand this approach, once it is implemented, to receive daily reports from all depositories for customer segregated accounts, including clearing FCMs. We will develop a program to compare these balances with those reported by the firms in their daily segregation reports. While there may be reconciling items due to pending additions and withdrawals, the system will generate an immediate alert for any material discrepancies.