Confusion reigns over BBC trader interview: real or hoax?

Confusion reigns over BBC trader interview: real or hoax?

Corporate pranksters the YesMen have denied speculation that the independent trader who provoked an outcry yesterday with a BBC interview in which he claimed "Goldman Sachs rules the world" may have been a hoaxer from the activist collective.

In the interview about the latest proposed Eurozone rescue plan, 'Alessio Rastani' caused a stir by claiming "I have a confession: I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession".

Dismissing government efforts to prevent economic collapse, the interviewee insisted: "The governments don't rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world."

The BBC presenter Martine Croxall told Rastani that "jaws have just collectively dropped" in the studio at the comments and the interview quickly went viral. 

However, as the day wore on, speculation grew that the trader may have been the creation of the YesMen, who according to their site, impersonate "big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else".

The group tricked the BBC several years ago, when a member bearing a striking resemblance to 'Rastani' impersonated a Dow Chemical spokesman in an interview promising compensation for the thousands of victims of the Bhopal disaster.

However, if 'Rastani' is a hoax he is an elaborate one; he has a Twitter account going back to 2009, a Facebook page and his own blog.

Following the controversy, the BBC's business editor Robert Peston took to Twitter to say: We spoke to the trader again this morning, & as far as we can tell he is a genuine independent trader, not a member of YesMen".

Peston also says that, whether fake or not, "he [Rastani] says what traders say privately to me".

The YesMen appear to agree, issuing a statement late Tuesday denying their involvement: "Despite widespread speculation, he isn't a Yes Man. He's a real trader who is, for one reason or another, being more honest than usual."

Update:Wednesday morning and the truth about Mr Rastani begins to emerge - not a trader, but a publicity-seeking public speaker, operating out of a semi-detached house in Bexleyheath, South London. As one online commentator put it: "The guy is a charlatan. It may not have been a hoax in the true sense of the word but the BBC should have known his background and character and opted instead to interview someone with a better informed or knowledgeable and intelligent opinion."

Comments: (6)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 27 September, 2011, 14:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

The scary thing is that whether the trader interview is a hoax or not, his comments are pretty valid:

[1] It doesn't take a wizard to realise that the market thinks poorly on recent government plans to resolve the Euro crisis, it certainly hasn't bounced back with any recent announcements.

[2] If anyone reads below the surface and follows the types of deals Goldman Sachs actually write, it is possible that this bank does have more power than half the governments in the world.

[3] Operation Twist is an exotic way of saying the fed replaces short term treasuries with long term bonds in an effort to artificially lift the front end of the yield curve and reduce long term borrowing rates. But in reality interest rates are already really low, pushing them a few extra points isn't going to help much. It certainly won't create jobs which is one of the most fundamental problems at present in the economy.

[4] With the US debt ceiling were it is, there isn't much more that can be done except another round of quantitative easing when the market really does unwind. The Fed has to wait for the right moment however as it is running out of options.

[5] The ECB and governments across Europe have had two years to fix the Greece debt problems. Two years at the very least and they are still towing the line. Someone out there tell us this is proactive.

[6] The recent collapse of stock prices and the pull back in manufacturing figures from China are clear sign that the way out of the global financial crisis isn't going to be straight forward.

If the economy double dips which the IMF seems to believe is possible, then watch out because your trader on BBC might just be in the money while everyone else goes broke.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 27 September, 2011, 15:43Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I have checked out this guy’s twitter account. He is no fundamental academic pricing interest rate swaps not that he claims to be either but he does appear to be a day trader / market follower - I have come across these kind of people before and it falls in line with the way he talks.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 28 September, 2011, 12:04Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Buy or Sell, there are fees involved and someone turns some money.  The financial sector has been trading like crazy for 20 years and the money got paid out into the pockets of the establishment players, including GSachs.  Now the valuations of assets have been slashed and the real money is no longer there.  Its gone to fund their houses, cars, yachts, consumer goods.  Sour grapes, I wasn't part of it, but I sure as hell am paying the price now, and it doesn't look to me like the banks are hurting at all.  Profits are good, their risk is less, yield must be better because of the premium on lending and the beneficial low bank interest rates.  I'd say the banks are loving it now and in a position of power?

John Dring
John Dring - Intel Network Services - Swindon 28 September, 2011, 12:47Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Why is it a hoax?  He is what he says he is - an independent trader.  Its just his opinion and perhaps he was a lot less guarded than an institutional one.  Its long been said that traders don't care which way the market goes, just so long and they know which way it heading, because then they can make trades with profit.  But can the stock markets collapse?  What would replace it?  Someone will always buy into a bargain to keep it alive, won't they?


A Finextra member
A Finextra member 28 September, 2011, 14:231 like 1 like

John I totally agree, he is a day trader not an institutional guy.  If you look at his twitter account he has been doing this for a while. But he has an opinion and for what it’s worth I think he sums it up pretty well.  If we had some toffee nosed naff from a tier one financial institution (are there any left in the UK), the whole interview would have been jaded, carefully censored and fed to the audience in a way the institution wants you to hear; empty talk at midday for homebodies.

Well it must all be working on at least one level because this story seems to have generated more interest than either BBC or the newspapers could have possibly wished for.