The news yesterday for PFGBest was good – the Trustee is finally going to move on making a distribution. While we wait to find out exactly how much that distribution will be, and at what point clients will start receiving the funds, the NFA revealed additional moves. As many of you know, we’ve been putting pressure on the NFA and its board of directors to conduct an extensive evaluation of its policies, practices and people, going so far as to call on Congress to launch an investigation of their own. After lengthy conversations with several board members, we seem to be making progress, with the NFA retaining expert consultants on the matter to conduct an independent review. The Wall Street Journal reveals:
Hiring Berkeley Research Group to examine the NFA’s auditing practices followed the July appointment of law firm Jenner & Block as counsel to the NFA as part of its internal review. Berkeley’s financial institutions practice includes market experts that helped examine the Securities and Exchange Commission’s failure to uncover the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. A spokeswoman for Berkeley declined comment.
The review process is being overseen by a newly created subcommittee of the NFA’s board, made up of its public representatives and headed by Todd Petzel, chief investment officer of Offit Capital Advisors LLC.
Why does this matter? For starters, they’re not relying on a law firm to examine their practices; they’re turning to an organization with a history of working with regulatory bodies to improve their practices. Further, they board of directors is taking the situation seriously, designating a subcommittee to handle the situation instead of letting those who are potentially culpable guide the process. And it looks like this isn’t just an empty gesture, either. The findings of the committee, as it turns out, will have some significant consequences:
The fallout has extended to the agency’s most senior ranks. President and CEO Dan Roth last month raised with NFA’s board the issue of whether he should continue to serve, though didn’t formally offer to resign, according to people with knowledge of the discussion.
NFA directors determined at the time that it was premature to evaluate his future ahead of the external review. Decisions on bonuses for the 2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30, will also be deferred until that time, the people said. […]
While NFA board members have discussed general succession planning for senior management roles, directors haven’t pushed for any immediate changes, according to people close to the talks. With no evidence that anyone at the regulator was involved in the alleged fraud at Peregrine, the NFA’s board sees value in retaining its leadership—in particular Mr. Roth, who has worked for the agency since its inception in 1982-while navigating fallout from the broker’s collapse.
The NFA board decided to postpone decisions on bonus payments for senior management at a regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 16, according to a person close to the situation.
Now, we’re no fans of Mr. Roth and the direction of the NFA under his tenure, but we think this is the right move. We’ll give him props for putting his resignation on the table for consideration, and we’ll applaud the board of directors for deferring bonus payments until the final evaluation is completed; after all, those are supposed to be based on performance, right? But at least it appears as though there will be consequences if the evaluation yields poor results, as we believe it likely will – particularly if the review includes interviews with NFA members on the execution of NFA audit procedures.
Headed into the holiday weekend, we’re cautiously optimistic, but it looks like we may be FINALLY turning a corner in the PFGBest scandal.