NFA Freezes U.S. Broker as Founder Attempts Suicide

Regulators say that more than $220 million appears to be missing

By Christopher Freeburn, InvestorPlace Writer

The National Futures Association (NFA) has frozen the accounts at Iowa-based futures broker PFGBest.

The regulator took action after it found that PFGBest’s bank accounts, which were supposed to contain $225 million in customer funds, actually held about $5 million, Reuters notes.

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Monday morning, just hours before the NFA action, PFGBest founder Russell Wasendorf Sr. was discovered near the company’s new $18 million eco-friendly offices, apparently having attempted to kill himself. According to company employees, his son said a note left behind hinted at financial problems.

The company informed its customers that it had entered “liquidation-only” status while it investigated “some accounting irregularities” and could not dispense any customer funds.

PFGBest’s implosion is not seen as having the same affect as the meltdown of MF Global last year. The Iowa company had roughly $400 million in segregated customer accounts, a fraction of MF Global’s holdings. Still, it is another black mark for the futures industry.

The NFA investigation is likely to result in criminal prosecution, sources said.

PFGBest was hit with a $700,000 fine by the NFA in February for its ties to Trevor Cook’s Minnesota ponzi scheme, which collapsed last year leaving investors out $194 million. The NFA claimed that PFGBest should have recognized Cook’s fraud.

Wallendorf Sr. is currently in the hospital, listed in critical condition.

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