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Peregrine Financial Assets Far Less than Estimated

Peregrine Financial Group has total assets of $270.2 million, the firm's bankruptcy trustee said in a filing, far less than the $500 million to $1 billion estimated by the futures brokerage when it failed in mid-July.

Peregrine Financial Group has total assets of $270.2 million, the firm's bankruptcy trustee said in a filing, far less than the $500 million to $1 billion estimated by the futures brokerage when it failed in mid-July.

Its debts total $525.3 million, according to the filing on Thursday.

The gap between the debts and assets underscored the difficulty Peregrine's 24,000 former customers faced as they seek to recover funds they kept at the firm to back their trades.

The filing - comprising 3,583 pages - offered the first look at the company's financials since its chief executive, Russell Wasendorf Sr., confessed on July 9 to stealing money from customers for years, and attempted suicide near the firm's state-of-the-art headquarters in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Peregrine filed for bankruptcy protection on July 10, and Wasendorf was arrested on July 13 and indicted a month later for fabricating financial statements and lying to federal regulators. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has accused Wasendorf of misappropriating more than $200 million in customer funds.

Among Peregrine's liabilities, $519.8 million was in unsecured, non-priority claims - most of which were balances in customer accounts, according to the filing.

Peregrine had 17,000 futures customers and 7,000 currency and metals -t radi ng customers, a nd the filing made clear that the firm does not have nearly enough money on hand to make them whole.

Earlier this week, the trustee said he planned to return an initial 30 percent to 40 percent of funds to certain customers by the end of this month. That is far less than the 72 percent that MF Global Holdings Ltd customers received in early distributions after that firm collapsed - and suggested to observers that the ultimate payout in the Peregrine case will be limited.

According to Thursday's filing, the firm, also known as PFGBest, had $249.5 million on deposit at various financial institutions, most of which were customer funds in accounts at JPMorgan Chase & Co and Jefferies Bache LLC.

Other assets included $5.8 million in bonds, $5.2 million in accounts receivable, and $6.2 million in unliquidated claims, among them dozens of cu stomer debits.

Listed among the other assets were scores of computers, printers, servers and headsets that might be found at a mid-size brokerage like Peregrine. More unusual assets included: 133 ounces of gold; a baseball glove signed by World Series-winning manager Joe Torre and Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench and coins stamped with the likeness of cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants.

There were also 14 company cars, the most valuable being a 2011 Yukon Denali sports utility vehicle with a book value of $53,000, and more than 100 In ternet domain n ames in cluding russwasendorf.com, pfgbest.com and pfgsucks.com. The filing listed more than 300 towels, t-shirts, shorts and other sportswear.

The trustee did not list an estimated value for the clothes or websites.

CAPITAL INFUSIONS

In Wasendorf's confession - left in a car in which he tried to take his own life in July - he said he spent most of the stolen customer money on keeping his business afloat.

The financial statements filed by the trustee showed a deteriorating financial situation.

The company's gross income fell to $1.2 million last year from $2.7 million a year earlier, and the company booked a $259,000 loss in the first half of 2012, according to the filing.

Meanwhile, the company gave capital infusions to several subsidiaries, including $1 million to its Australian unit this past June; $500,000 to its Canadian unit late last year; $350,000 this year to its broker-dealer unit and $300,000 over the past year to its asset management unit.

The filing also listed 59 ongoing lawsuits and other legal disputes, with more than $55 million at stake.

Copyright 2010 by Reuters. All rights reserved.

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