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When most people think of the drama of globalfinance, they think of stocks and bonds, venturecapital, high-tech IPOs, and complex mortgagebackedsecurities. But commodities? Crude oil andsoybeans? Copper and wheat? What could be moreboring?
That s exactly what the elite commodity traderswant you to think. They don t seek the mediaspotlight. They don t want to be as famous asWarren Buffett or Bill Gross. Their astonishingwealth was created in near-total obscurity, becausethey dwelled either in closely held private companiesor deep within large banks and corporations, where commodity profits and losses weren tbroken out.
But if the individual participants in the greatcommodities boom of the 2000s went unnoticed, their impact did not. Over several years the sizeof the market exploded, and so did prices for rawmaterials raising serious questions about whetherthe big traders were intentionally jacking up thecost of gasoline, food, and other essentials boughtby ordinary people around the world. What wasreally driving all those price spikes?
Now Kate Kelly, the bestselling author of"Street Fighters," takes us inside this secretive innercircle that controls so many things we all dependon. She gets closer than any previous reporter tounderstanding these whip-smart, aggressive, andoften egomaniacal men (yes, they are nearly allmen). They work hard, play hard, flaunt theirwealth, and bet millions every day on a blend offacts, analysis, and pure gut instinct.
Kelly s narrative focuses on one of the mostextraordinary periods in financial history. Thoughthe practice of gaming out price changes in commoditiesgoes back to ancient Mesopotamia, it hadnever before reached the extremes of the early tomid-2000s. Kelly exposes the role of the hedgefunds, banks, brokers, and regulators in this volatilemarket, through fascinating stories of secretclub members such as . . .
Pierre Andurand, a self-made multimillionairewho generated the winningest annual performanceever for an oil trader in 2008 and hiredElton John to perform at his wedding.Ivan Glasenberg, whose secretive Swiss commoditiesgiant, Glencore, founded by the infamousAmerican fugitive Marc Rich, orchestrateda massive merger with the help of former UKprime minister Tony Blair.Jon Ruggles, a brash know-it-all recruitedby Delta Air Lines to revitalize the airline s fuel hedgingbusiness, he continued to make tradesin his personal account, a questionable practicegiven his position.
Drawing on her exclusive access to the secret club, and following the trail from New York to Houston, London, Dubai, and beyond, Kelly reveals theimmense power in the hands of a few, and theso-far contentious efforts by the Obama administrationto rein in the cowboys."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-04-28
- Reviewer: Staff
CNBC reporter Kelly (Street Fighters) offers brief portraits of successful traders from the lightly regulated world of commodity trading, where deals for oil, copper, and livestock are engineered for billions in profits. Much of the action described took place during a post-2001 boom that prompted major investment banks to get in on the action, and spurred regulators to try curbing the potential fallout from wild market swings that “created kings in the trading world’s empowered class and drove other people and companies into financial ruin.” Kelly presents mostly admiring portraits of obscure but rich financiers. There’s a false familiarity with these elites, as seen in details of extravagant wedding costs, and efforts to provide balance through sketches of would-be reformers such as Gary Gensler, former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, fail to round out the choppy narrative. Apart from references to $4 per gallon gasoline during speculation-fueled price spikes and rising costs to Coca-Cola after a bottleneck in aluminum supplies, Kelly does not fully demonstrate the practical costs to the rest of the world. The need for access to her subjects forces her, like much of the rest of the financial press, to pull her punches. Agent: Bob Barnett, Williams & Connolly. (June)