Wasendorf has admitted taking customer money over nearly 20 years to promote his image as a successful businessman and philanthropist, and falsifying documents to hide the theft from the National Futures Association and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulated the company. Wasendorf, 64, faces up to 50 years in prison for the fraud, which shook confidence in an industry that was still reeling from the collapse of MFGlobal.

"It's unbelievable Wasendorf was stealing out of the regulated side of the business and not the unregulated side," said John Roe, co-founder of the Commodity Customer Coalition, which is lobbying for quick and maximum refunds for commodity customers. He called forex trading "the Wild West" of the industry since it lacks strict oversight, but said, "Amazingly, their money for the most part is there. It's going to be very interesting to see how the law treats that."

Attorneys representing forex customers â¿¿ and a much smaller group that traded metals, who also haven't received money â¿¿ have intervened in the bankruptcy to argue their money should not be considered the bankruptcy estate's property and should be returned entirely. They say their funds can be directly traced to specific accounts at PFG and at outside banks PFG used for their trading. At a minimum, they say they should be treated equally to other PFG customers.

The outcome of the dispute could mean thousands of dollars to individual investors. The trustee has to decide how to distribute roughly $137 million in cash the company is holding, including $45 million linked to forex and metals accounts. The priority of classes of customers could also affect a separate proceeding in which a receiver is liquidating Wasendorf's personal and other business assets to pay back victims.

Roe said the best case scenario for commodities customers is to receive perhaps 60 percent of their money back, compared to 40 or 50 percent, "depending on how the law breaks for them." He said forex customers could theoretically get 100 percent of their money back if their attorneys prevail â¿¿ or very small payouts if they are treated as general creditors, which he said was more likely.

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