The founder of an Iowa brokerage pleaded not guilty Friday to fraud charges in a suspected $200 million embezzlement scheme that drove his firm to bankruptcy and left thousands of customers without their money.
Peregrine Financial Group, Inc. CEO Russ Wasendorf Sr. was charged with 31 counts of lying to regulators.
At this time, he pleads not guilty to each count, Wasendorfs attorney, public defender Jane Kelly, told the judge in a Cedar Rapids federal courtroom packed with reporters.
The 64-year-old Wasendorf, who faces a maximum prison term of 155 years and a fine of $7.7 million if convicted on all counts, appeared remarkably upbeat and relaxed. Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and shackles on his hands and legs, he joked and made casual small talk with Kelly.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles scheduled the trial for Oct. 15.
Leading indicators up 0.4% after retreat
A measure of future U.S. economic activity recovered in July after a sharp drop in June, providing further evidence of an economy that is regaining some momentum.
The Conference Board said Friday that its index of leading economic indicators increased 0.4 percent in July after falling 0.4 percent in June.
The July strength came from an improvement in a number of components with the largest contributions coming from a big jump in applications for housing permits and declines in applications for unemployment benefits.
The rebound last month put the index at 95.8, matching its May level, which had been the highest reading in four years.
Economists viewed the July result as evidence that the economy has regained its footing.
Fannie, Freddie bailout deal altered
The government is changing the terms of its bailout agreement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a way that will shrink the holdings of the two mortgage giants more quickly and will require payment to the government of all quarterly profits the companies earn.
The Treasury Department announced the changes Friday in an effort to deal with concerns that the companies could at some point exhaust the federal support they were guaranteed when they were taken over by the government in September 2008 during the financial crisis.
The two firms would have to turn over all profits they earn every quarter. They would also be required to accelerate the reduction of their mortgage holdings to hit a cap of $250 billion by 2018, four years earlier than planned.
Last Jeep Liberty rolls off Ohio line
The last Jeep Liberty model has rolled off an Ohio assembly line.
WTOL-TV reported that the Toledo Chrysler assembly plant finished building the 11-year-old small SUV on Thursday. That part of the plant will be retooled to build another Jeep product.
The shutdown will mean temporary layoffs for about 800 hourly employees who will be called back after the plant is retooled, expected to be next year.
More than 1.25 million Jeep Libertys have been built at the plant.
Production of the Jeep Wrangler is done on a different line in a separate part of the complex.
It will be unaffected. Both the Liberty and the Wrangler are built only in Toledo.