TED BUTLER COMMENTARY
September 2, 2008
(This essay was written by silver analyst Theodore Butler, an independent consultant. Investment Rarities does not necessarily endorse these views, which may or may not prove to be correct.)
What’s happening in the silver and gold markets is, without a doubt, the most sordid scheme in the history of finance. It makes a mockery of financial regulation and the rule of law. It allows a large financial entity, or entities, to rip off the investing public and gouge them for obscene profits.
It is cronyism, back-room dealing, market fixing and inside information at its worst. I am terribly disappointed and dismayed that such a thing could happen in our great country.
In the following paragraphs I will outline and explain how a major bank or banks, in likely concert with the U.S. government, pulled off financial shenanigans that will literally take your breath away. This is an outrage that cannot be allowed to stand.
The recent revelations in the CFTC’s Bank Participation Report for August provided stunning proof of concentration and manipulation in the COMEX silver and gold futures markets. Two U.S. banks held a short position in COMEX silver futures, as of August 5, of 33,805 contracts, or almost 170 million ounces, an increase of 138 million ounces in one month. That increase is equal to 20% of the world mine production. If one or two entities bought or sold 20% of the annual world production of oil or wheat in a month, it would bring about a congressional feeding frenzy.
In gold, no more than 3 U.S. banks sold short in one month more than 10% of world annual mine production. This was the largest short position in gold and silver ever recorded by U.S. banks. After the massive and concentrated silver and gold short position was established by these U.S. banks, the markets experienced a historic decline in price. It all took place during the first widespread retail silver shortage in history. It is completely at odds how the law of supply and demand works.
The facts are so clear that the CFTC should have provided an immediate explanation as to why this doesn’t constitute manipulation. They should move against the manipulators just as promptly. Silence is not an option. The U.S. banks (or bank) in question are at the top of the financial food chain when it comes to size, power and importance. They are publicly owned by millions of investors. These banks are generally open about their financial dealings, which are closely scrutinized. There is an archaic rule that prevents the CFTC from revealing the identity of these banks. But there is no rule preventing these banks acknowledging they were responsible for these silver and gold short sales and explaining the economic justification behind them. These are material transactions that should be disclosed to their shareholders. Apparently transparency does not apply to manipulative transactions.
One U.S. Bank?
While the report lists two U.S. banks in silver and three in gold, it may be that only one bank, and perhaps the same bank, held the greatest amount of the total short position in silver and gold. The published data is not specific enough, but objective analysis raises the strong probability that just one bank held 30,000 or more short silver contracts (150 million ounces), and 75,000 gold contracts in the current report. What are the odds of two or three banks suddenly deciding to short unprecedented amounts of silver and gold contracts spontaneously? If it were two or three banks it would raise the issue of collusion. If it was just one U.S. bank, it would mean that bank held 34% of the entire COMEX silver market and 30% of the gold market. Such a concentration would be manipulation to any reasonable person.
The Bank Participation Report is a monthly snapshot on a predetermined single date. Therefore, it is unlikely to capture the extreme high or low holdings of participants. Based upon the weekly Commitment of Traders Report (COT) for positions as of July 22, the 4 largest traders, including the big U.S. banks, held a record net short position of 63,740 silver contracts, or 7,779 more contracts than they held for the COT and Bank Participation Reports of 8/5. Thus, it is almost certain that the big U.S. bank(s) held a substantially larger position on 7/22 than it held in the Bank Participation Report of August 5. That would mean the true net percentage of the entire market possibly held by one U.S. bank could be even higher than 34%, and may in fact, exceed 40%. That is truly shocking.
I have a simple solution to determine if what I am suggesting is true. Let the CFTC tell us. I’m not asking them to violate the rule that they and the big traders hide behind, the one that protects the identity of the traders. I’m asking something else entirely. Instead of telling us what two or three U.S. banks held, as they do in the Bank Participation Report, or what the 4 or 8 largest traders may hold, as they do in the COT report, just tell us what the one largest trader held in silver and gold. That will settle the matter. Let them protect the identity, just tell us how many contracts the big U.S. bank held on July 22 and August 5.
This is a perfectly reasonable request. There is no taxpayer cost involved. It will take one employee only a few minutes to determine this. There is no valid reason why the CFTC, in the interest of monitoring concentration and preventing manipulation, should not disclose what the very largest trader in every market held. The CFTC should answer forthwith. If they don’t, we must make them, through our elected representatives. They will try to weasel out of this reasonable request. We can’t let them.
A U.S. Government Silver Intervention?
For many years, I have openly alleged an ongoing manipulation in the silver (and gold) market. As that message became more believable to growing numbers of readers, their feedback indicated that their most popular motive behind the manipulation was some type of U.S. Government involvement. I rejected these “conspiracy” theories, preferring instead my simple explanation of control by big financial firms.
There were a few things I didn’t report on in my previous article, “The Smoking Gun” (By the way, since so many have referred to that article, let me acknowledge and thank Carl Loeb for his valuable contributions to that article.) It wasn’t just that 2 U.S. banks were short almost 34,000 silver futures contracts, as of August 5. It was also that they replaced what the other big financial entities had been short. The key here is the replacement angle. The data in the weekly COTs, and in the monthly Bank Participation Report, confirm this. What does this data mean?
I am going to speculate based upon the known facts. Maybe I will be proven correct, maybe not. However, the nature of this speculation is so disturbing, that I hope I am wrong. But I need to state it because if I am close to the mark, the implications for the silver market are profound.
I think the data in the COT and the Bank Participation Reports indicate that the U.S. Government may have bailed out the biggest COMEX silver short by arranging for a U.S. bank to take over their position. This coincides with JP Morgan’s takeover of Bear Stearns. In fact, it would not surprise me if the bailout was JP Morgan taking over Bear Stearns‘ short silver position, at the government‘s request. While this silver bailout (if it happened) was no doubt undertaken with financial system stability in mind, it has disturbing implications of legality and equity.
JP Morgan has been mentioned as a possible big silver and gold short. If it’s not them, it is someone like them. How many big U.S. banks fit the profile? Certainly, if JP Morgan isn’t one of the big silver or gold shorts, they can instantly dismiss such talk by stating so.
Logically, there would appear to be no way that a big money center U.S. bank would choose this time and place to suddenly decide to short 150 million ounces of silver and 7 million ounces of gold voluntarily. The banks are hemorrhaging losses due to poor quality mortgages and other ill-advised bets. They’ve cut back credit and are circling the wagons. A CEO, like Jamie Dimon, is not going to risk the wrath of shareholders with a massive and dangerous impromptu bet on the short side of precious metals. No bank CEO would, as it is too reckless to contemplate. And no CEO would do it without prior approval from the regulators.
I believe the bank involved did not seek approval, but merely followed the request of the U.S. Government to sell quantities of silver and gold to bailout the former big short. If that former big short bought back this position, we would have seen $50 or $100 silver in a flash. If my speculation is correct, someone in the government wished to prevent that. Worse, the government (most likely Treasury and the Federal Reserve) allowed the new short to further rig the market to the downside with a variety of dirty tricks.
In other words, it was the U.S. Government that arranged and sanctioned the sell-off. That the government might undermine confidence in our markets and sanction manipulation and illegal market behavior for any reason is beyond my understanding. I love this country. But I certainly don’t love our government. Nor do I trust them. What to do about it?
Well, a start is to insist that the CFTC disclose how many contracts the largest trader held short in COMEX silver and gold futures on 7/22 and 8/5. Ask them and ask your elected officials to ask them. I’m including the e-mail addresses of the commissioners and the Inspector General.
Now that the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group is the new owner of the NYMEX/COMEX, they should be notified of the alleged manipulation and also asked to provide the number of contracts held net short by the largest short position holder on 7/22 and 8/5. I’m including the e-mail address of the Chief Regulatory Officer. Dean.firstname.lastname@example.org
If my speculation is close to the mark that the U.S. Government is now involved in the silver manipulation, does this mean the manipulation can be extended indefinitely? In my opinion, the answer is no. In the end, what will terminate the manipulation will be a lack of adequate wholesale supplies of silver to the industrial users. It’s similar to what is now happening in the retail market. Uncle Sam does not have any silver, and is powerless to secretly subsidize the users. Additionally, the government is more subject to scrutiny than others. The single inevitable solution to this manipulation is higher prices; sharply higher prices.
What I’ve explained here, if true, cannot be condoned for any reason. It’s illegal and contrary to everything that America stands for.