The Aluminum Shuffle Game

The now famous Rolling Stone magazine article in 2009 by Matt Taibbi unforgettably referred to Goldman Sachs (GS), the world’s most powerful investment bank, as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

At the time, Taibbi was describing Goldman’s role in the 2008 financial crisis and the speculative bubble of mortgage-backed securities assets which later came crashing down.

The hits for the Great Vampire Squid keep on coming.

A New York jury this month found a former Goldman trader, Fabrice Tourre, liable for misleading investors in one of those infamously lousy mortgage deals. But that embarrassment doesn’t mean the great vampire squid hasn’t stopped sucking the lifeblood from American capitalism through unfair trade practices.

The U.S. Senate and commodities regulators are investigating Goldman’s role in owning and manipulating the physical delivery of aluminum from its warehouses, along with its sizeable commodities trading profits resulting from shuffling tons of aluminum back and forth in warehouses in Detroit.

The practices of a Goldman subsidiary that moves the aluminum – and thus drives up the costs to each thirsty consumer popping a can of soda or beer on a hot summer day – was revealed in great detail last month in the New York Times by reporter David Kocieniewski.

“This industrial dance has been choreographed by Goldman to exploit pricing regulations set up by an overseas commodities exchange,” according to the Times.

The question is, what is an investment bank like Goldman, and its cohort, JPMorgan (JPM), doing owning aluminum warehouse facilities and trying to corner the market?

The ultimate buyers of aluminum – both consumers and other industrial buyers across America – are apparently fed up with the practice. In fact, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that a case was filed in Florida earlier this week alleging that JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and metals company Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) worked together to restrain aluminum supplies and drive up prices. The Florida complaint accused the banks and Glencore of racketeering, conspiring with an overseas metals exchange, hoarding aluminum in Detroit and violating antitrust laws.

And that lawsuit comes on the heels of an earlier complaint filed by a Michigan company over similar claims, according to Bloomberg.

The aluminum shuffling game is up. Big Wall Street banks like Goldman and JPMorgan are facing increased scrutiny of their involvement in businesses that store and transport commodities, such as oil and aluminum. A Senate Committee recently held a hearing into whether banks should be allowed to control power plants, warehouses and oil refineries.

Moreover, JPMorgan just agreed to pay $410 million to settle accusations by U.S. Energy regulators that it manipulated electricity prices. How much will shareholders lose if JPMorgan has to pony up for manipulating the price of aluminum?

JPMorgan’s conduct harkens back to the ENRON scandal of 2001 when market abuses by ENRON and other trading firms resulted in rolling blackouts throughout California during the summer of that year.

Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid, and its Wall Street cohorts see money everywhere. They will attempt to squeeze a deal even if it’s not a banking project. Like street thugs, Wall Street banks are manipulating prices, such as aluminum, to profit. The result is higher prices for consumers.

“Where there is money to be made, the squid will strike,” Taibbi wrote a few years ago in Rolling Stone. Goldman’s aluminum debacle proves those words true, yet again.

Disclosure: Zamansky LLC are securities and investment fraud attorneys representing investors in federal and state litigation against financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.

About Jacob H. Zamansky 57 Articles

Jacob (”Jake”) H. Zamansky is one of the country’s foremost authorities on securities arbitration law, the legal recourse for investors claiming broker wrongdoing, or for brokers claiming wrongful termination or other misconduct by their employer. Zamansky & Associates, the New York-based law firm he founded, represents both individuals and institutions in complex securities, hedge fund, and employment arbitrations.

Mr. Zamansky was at the forefront of recent efforts to “clean up” Wall Street. In 2001, he successfully sued former Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget on behalf of a New York pediatrician misled by Blodget’s stock research. The case’s successful resolution was the catalyst for New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer to investigate the conflicts of interest on Wall Street and resulted in the well-reported $1.4 billion Global Settlement, which included many of the biggest names on Wall Street.

More recently, Mr. Zamansky is one of the leading litigators and opinion leaders of the subprime mortgage crisis and the related hedge fund collapses, representing both investors and mortgage borrowers who were defrauded by Wall Street firms and mortgage lenders. Among Mr. Zamansky’s early actions is filing the first arbitration case on behalf of institutional and high net worth investors against Bear Stearns Asset Management with regard to the two hedge funds which collapsed as a result of exposure to subprime mortgage backed securities. He also has filed claims on behalf of individual investors victimized by brokers that steered their portfolios into unsuitable subprime stocks and mortgage borrowers who were fraudulently coerced into inappropriate mortgage and investment transactions.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Zamansky worked for more than 30 years as a litigator, including positions at Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP. His tenure also included serving as a federal prosecutor with the Federal Trade Commission.

A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Zamansky has been a frequent expert commentator on CNBC, CNN, and FOX News and has published opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and USA Today. He is regularly quoted and his cases have been chronicled in major financial and news publications including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes. He is a frequent lecturer for industry and legal groups around the country. He also writes a blog that can be viewed here.

Visit: Zamansky & Associates

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