Peregrine Financial Collapse Leaves Workers, Region Scrambling

By Chris Earl, Reporter

Russ Wasendorf, sr. Monday, April. 4, 2011. (RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer)

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By KCRG Intern

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - The road that leads into the Peregrine Financial Group's location in Cedar Falls is as unassuming as just another country road. Yet, on Thursday afternoon, the financial world was locked in on the latest developments.

A satellite truck with a full news crew from the network CNBC was parked outside the closed gates at 1 Peregrine Way in rural Cedar Falls.

For days, the focus has been on what led to the collapse and eventual Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing by the Cedar Falls-based futures brokerage.

On Monday morning, investigators say PFG founder and CEO Russ Wasendorf Sr. tried to commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in the company parking lot. That raised the attention of investigators and reporters as Wasendorf is being treated at an Iowa City hospital.

Multiple news reports, including MarketWatch.com, claim Peregrine Financial had stated, in recent weeks, the company had $225 million in the bank when the reality was that the number was only $5 million. Now, with Peregrine filing for bankruptcy, the FBI is looking into how the company reached this point.

The names "Wasendorf" and "Peregrine" are very prominent throughout Waterloo and Cedar Falls. The Peregrine Charities Triathlon event at George Wyth State Park is cancelled. Yet the foundation was well-known for its donations to area hospitals, especially for children's treatment. The Cedar Falls Public Library lists Wasendorf as a six-figure donor.

Yet, just across the street from the library, is MyVerona, an Italian restaurant that is owned by Wasendorf. Early this week, MyVerona closed without warning and dozens of employees had worked there.

The PFG collapse means about 125 workers will lose their jobs, between the Cedar Falls facility and Chicago-based employees. One Chicago employee, Ronald Kotulak, has filed legal action seeking "class action status" to bring in other PFG workers, including those in Cedar Falls. Kotulak claims that he was fired without the proper 60-day notice required under federal law.

Noting the situation at PFG, one local CEO is hoping some of these workers will stay in the region. Banno CEO Wade Arnold is openly courting former PFG employees. His 61-employee firm is tech-based and he wants the Cedar Valley to have the jobs to keep tech-savvy professionals in the area.

"With what is happening at PFG, that is an influx of really talented people for the market," said Arnold.

There is a PFGBest and My Verona Displaced Employees Assistance Meeting Scheduled for Wednesday, July 18. The meeting will be held at Hawkeye Community College, Tama Hall Rooms 107A/B, 1501 East Orange Road.

Representatives from area organiztions will be on hand to help people with unemployment Insurance, job assistance, educational opportunities, and food and utility assistance
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