A trader interviewed on the BBC on Monday caused a stir by saying some inflammatory things about stock traders’ relationship with the economy at large. Then people claimed it was a hoax (we found plenty of evidence to the contrary). The way the public responded to his remarks was telling of the way people feel about financial markets and their effect on the economy.
A man named Alessio Rastani was interviewed on the BBC yesterday, and shocked both the BBC reporters and viewers with his candor by saying, in essence, that the markets are going to collapse, and that he and other traders don’t care because they can make a profit off of a down market, so long as they take the right positions.
Rastani, who claims to be a personal trader not affiliated with any bank or financial institution, said that the “market is toast,” that “Goldman Sachs rules the world,” and that traders “don’t really really care that much about how are you gonna fix the economy…our job is to make money from it.” He went on to say that he “dreams of another recession,” because he is positioned to make a lot of money off of it. He went on to predict that millions will lose their savings in the coming months.
On Monday, the internet was abuzz with outrage, disgust, and admiration for Rastani, for his candor and his apparent callousness toward the future of the global economy. By Tuesday, many on the Internet were saying that Rastani was actually a prankster — no real day trader would say that stuff! — and tried to link him to the prankster-artist collective the Yes Men, who have impersonated officials from Dow Chemical and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, among others.
Many have pointed out similarities between Rastani and another Yes Men prankster appearance on the BBC. But just as many have said he actually looks quite different from that man, and both Rastani and the Yes Men deny that they are involved with one another.
If Rastani is not who he claims he is, he has a thorough web presence: a Twitter account that goes back for two years, a blog, and a YouTube channel. In fact, an old tweet from December 2009 corroborates with one of his videos on the channel — they both demonstrate that he was in Damascus, MD during the blizzard of 2009. If Rastani is some sort of hoax, it’s disturbingly thorough.
Or, put another way, Alessio Rastani actually exists; whether he actually believes what he said on the BBC is impossible to say.
More likely is that he is who he claims he is, and the reaction to his brief interview, which ranged form disgust to claims of treachery, is the truly fascinating thing here. After all, aside from suggesting that Goldman Sachs rules the world, Rastani didn’t say anything that should come as a shock to anyone. People had long suspected bankers and traders of harboring these kinds of feelings about the economy; he merely put them in starker contrast.
That people suspected he was a fake suggests that we think telling harsh truths about the financial markets — that traders and bankers can short the economy at large and make a profit, and that profit is the driving principle of the industry, not economic expansion — is something only an anti-capitalist provocateur would do, is telling of our denial about the incentives in place in the financial services industry. Smart money does not have to bet on the growth of the economy. Goldman Sachs proved that.
If anything, we should be happy he is a day trader and doesn’t work for anyone who can move around large amounts of capital.