Sunday, January 23, 2011

19th century bond market manipulation

A favorite story [of Paul Samuleson's], late in life, had to do with the huge profits [economist] David Ricardo reaped after the Battle of Waterloo, the details adduced by Ricardo’s biographer, Piero Sraffa. The bond trader had an observer stationed near the battle. Once the outcome was clear, he galloped quickly to where a packet ship was waiting. So Ricardo in London received the early news, and conveyed it to the British government.

Then he went down to his customary chair at the Exchange – and sold! Other traders, suspecting the worst, sold too, the prices of Treasuries tumbling, until at last, Ricardo reversed course and bought and bought and made a killing, his greatest coup ever, one that put even the Rothschild brothers in the shade.
--David Warsh, Economic Principals, on an economist who was both smart and rich

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