Russell Wasendorf Sr., 64, founder and chairman of Peregrine Financial Group, slumps forward in his car in the parking lot of his firm, a tube running from the exhaust pipe to his slightly cracked window, a suicide note on the seat beside him. He is discovered there, close to death, and later falls into a coma in the hospital where he remains on life support. So fails another firm engaged in the criminal financial malfeasance, in this case stealing farmers' hard-earned funds invested as a hedge against commodity price volatility. Investigators find that the company's bank account is $220 million dollars short of what the books say it is, with a paltry $5 million available to panicked creditors. When will we learn that Ponzi schemes grow in the shade of self-regulated industries?
Wasendorf is--or was--one of those rock-star CEOs to his own minions. His inner circle was known within the Cedar Falls, Iowa-based company as "Wasendorfians" according to Associated Press. Blind loyalty and deference to the charismatic founder of the company set up a culture that allowed the kind of machinations that build fraud machines, which is what this firm was. The handwriting on the wall was there for all to see. A relationship with convicted Minneapolis mega-Ponzi-schemer Trevor Cook, a $700,000 fine from the National Futures Association, and an over-the-top opulent campus should have been signals that something was amiss, but it took a federal lawsuit over Peregrine's dealing with Cook to bring down this particular house of cards. ...
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