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In PFG Scandal, JPMorgan Chase Had Surprising Role: It Held Customer Accounts

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JPMorgan Chase held PFGBest customer funds in a segregated account, but has not yet been mentioned in the scandal.
JPMorgan Chase held PFGBest customer funds in a segregated account, but has not yet been mentioned in the scandal.

The investigation into the collapse of Iowa brokerage firm Peregrine Financial Group is notable for one name that has not yet turned up: JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan, the country's biggest bank, held customer accounts for Peregrine, doing business as PFGBest. But in alleging that Peregrine took customer money, the National Futures Association and Commodity Futures Trading Commission have claimed that customer money is missing not from a JPMorgan account, but from a U.S. Bank account.

That's news to some Peregrine clients.

"All of my clients thought the money was at JPMorgan," said Mark Sackoor, managing director at Abaco Futures in Boynton Beach, Fla. Sackoor was an "introducing broker" for PFG, connecting individual clients with the firm, which held their money.

Brokerage firms like PFG are required under federal regulations to disclose the name of the bank that holds segregated customer accounts, and JPMorgan was the only bank named in that capacity on the PFG Web site. If you were a client who wanted to send money to PFG, its Web site directed you -- and still does -- to wire the money to a JPMorgan account called the "PFG Inc. Customer Segregated Funds Account."

Several people, including clients and employees of PFG, have told The Huffington Post that they understood that segregated customer funds were held at JPMorgan.

But JPMorgan is not mentioned in the CFTC complaint against Peregrine -- instead, it says roughly $215 million is missing from an account at U.S. Bank, a unit of U.S. Bancorp. The complaint describes the U.S. Bank account as the segregated funds account for PFGBest customers.

Sackoor, the Florida managing director, says he had never heard of a U.S. Bank segregated-funds account before Peregrine collapsed. He and his clients are still waiting to hear where their money is and when they'll get it back.

"My clients and I are in limbo waiting for some sort of resolution so that my clients and I can get back to work," Sackoor says. "What I find really troubling is that there is little to no transparency or verification to a firm's segregated account balance that is supposed to be what its title suggests it to be."

It is unclear how much money might be in the JPMorgan account.

According to a CFTC report, Peregrine had about $400 million in total segregated customer funds as of the end of April -- about $180 million more than the $220 million the NFA says was supposed to be in the U.S. Bank account. Is that $180 million in a JPMorgan account? No one is saying yet.

Neither JPMorgan, U.S. Bank, the NFA, the CFTC nor PFG have yet returned calls seeking comment.

A JPMorgan spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday and did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Thursday. Update: He declined to comment again.

JPMorgan has another connection to the PFG case: Robert Felker, chairman of JPMorgan Futures, is also a director on the board of the NFA, the self-regulatory body that is investigating the PFG case. It's an echo of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon's controversial role on the board of another regulatory body, the New York Fed.

And JPMorgan's involvement in the PFG case is also an echo of its involvement in the collapse of another brokerage firm, MF Global -- JPMorgan had some customer funds for that firm, too.

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