Update (6:05 p.m. EDT): After the BBC's reassurance that it "carried out detailed investigations" into the background of trader Alessio Rastani, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday evening that it had also looked into Rastani's background and found he wasn't much of a trader. "He is a business owner, a 99pc shareholder in public speaking venture Santoro Projects. Its most recent accounts show cash in the bank of £985. After four years trading net assets are £10,048 -- in the red," wrote reporter Jonathan Russell. "How a man who has never been authorised by the Financial Services Authority and has no discernible history working for a City institution ended up being interviewed by the BBC remains a mystery." So while he's technically a trader, in that he trades stocks and currency on the open market, he's not exactly the expert insider speaking truth to power that many lauded him as on Tuesday. As Rastani told Russell, "I'm an attention seeker."
Original: On Monday, a London-based independent stock and foreign exchange trader shocked the BBC and all those watching when he said he "dreams of another recession" because he knows how to make money when the markets plummet. The trader, Alessio Rastani, predicted savings accounts wiped out in Europe and the United States and said he didn't think EU bailout measures would work. "Governments don't run the world," he said. "Goldman Sachs rules the world." If you think that sounds like something straight out of the Yes Men pranksters, you're not alone. But on Tuesday Morning he told Forbes he was the real deal, and later on Tuesday both BBC and the Yes Men confirmed he was legitimate. God help us all.
Many of those who believed from the start that Rastani was real expressed, shall we say, displeasure on his Facebook page -- some with his views and some with the fact that he was still alive. Elsewhere online, Gawker called him a sociopath and the Daily Mail used him as an example to back up a study that said traders were more dangerous than psychopaths. Many, such as The New York Times' David Goodman and Daily Intel's Joe Coscareli, wondered out loud whether he was a Yes Men hoax.
As Coscareli pointed out, BBC business editor Robert Peston was among those initially claiming a hoax on Twitter Tuesday morning. And Preston himself tweeted a link to the BBC's official statement, which reads, "We've carried out detailed investigations and can't find any evidence to suggest that the interview with Alessio Rastani was a hoax. He is an independent market trader and one of a range of voices we've had on air to talk about the recession." As for the Yes Men, they commended Rastani's honesty, but denied knowing him personally.
He's a real trader who is, for one reason or another, being more honest than usual. Who in big banking doesn't bet against the interests of the poor and find themselves massively recompensed—if not by the market, then by humongous taxpayer bailouts? Rastani's approach has been completely mainstream for several years now; we must thank him for putting a human face on it yesterday.
Here's the video:
Now that he's been confirmed as a real guy, and a little time has passed to let his comments sink in, a lot of people have come around to the belief that he has a valid point. On his Facebook page the sentiment has shifted from anger to, if not support, at least agreement. "The reality isn't mean or nice, it's just the reality. I applaud you Alessio for airing this out to the world," read one. "Nothing like an honest vampire," read another. But a few continued to express skepticism:
As he said, he's a trader. As a result, he didn't go on BBC to tell the "truth" or "help" the individual investor. He went to make a quick buck. I'm sure this guy is short and is getting burned in a day European markets rose 5-6%. The solution? Spread panick, hoping the millions watching BBC will sell...
The Wall Street Journal pointed to the finance blogger Kid Dynamite, who laid out a good point-by-point explanation of why Rastani was speaking accurately, if not politically correctly. Rastani's axioms such as "the markets are ruled by fear" are well-known, Kid Dynamite wrote. Back on Facebook, one commenter left a prescient bit of advice that we're guessing falls very close to at least one of Rastani's bad-economy moneymaking plans: "You should run some tip eBooks on how to make money from a down economy!"