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GOLD ANTI-TRUST ACTION COMMITTEE TAKES ON THE GOLD MARKET
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(May 19,1999) Gold prices fall to a 20-year low, so let's sue somebody! GATA spots a conspiracy, raises war-chest, and hires lawyers. Could a jury side with gold-holders who feel victimized by today's low gold prices, or is GATA tilting at windmills?
(May 19,1999) Since its formation in January of 1999 by financial commentator Bill Murphy and editor Chris Powell, the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee has brought attention to the gold market, most notably that market's inability to rise above $300 for any length of time over the past two years. Some see an international conspiracy to keep the price of gold below the $300 level. We refer you to the website at GATA.org for their view of this market manipulation.

There is no denying that much of their argument is sound. Today, gold has many enemies, and very few friends. The number of entities short the metal is huge. Even gold mining concerns, who you would think would be rooting for gold to go up in price (their own product!), have sold gold in the futures markets to lock in their profits.

GATA's point is that many players in the gold market would like to see gold prices stay down, they're acting in collusion, and that's a conspiracy.

Conspiracy theory probably has a lot of appeal for the person who had the bad luck to be a 'goldbug' back when conventional wisdom was that stocks ('paper assets') were dead and tangible assets were all the rage. Take a moment and consider the plight of this longstanding gold-owner. Perhaps he bought in 1980 when gold was over $800 per ounce. Maybe even later, say 1982, forsaking stocks when the Dow was below 1,000, and instead buying gold at nearly $600. While his friends who bought common stocks at that time are comfortably retired, and often invite him out on their yachts, our poor gold-owner has seen his assets depreciate by half over that 17-year span.

What's the poor gold-owner to do? Curse his luck? Take responsibility for a bad call? Blame himself for poor timing? Not likely in this day and age - it's got to be someone else's fault! Who did this to me? I should be prospering too, just like those common shareholders! My gold (or gold shares) should have gone up also! It would have, too, except for...a conspiracy!

We are certainly sympathetic to such a cause, within limits. On the one hand, our gold position is substantial, and any increase in gold prices ostensibly benefits our company. However, lower gold prices have caused our sales of gold bullion to skyrocket over the past ten months, due to increased U.S. demand for gold at the sub-$300 level. And we feel there are many more intelligent people of means who should and will buy physical gold insurance at these current low levels. Will they still buy when spot is $350, $400, $500+? Maybe not.

To quote the history published on their website GATA.org, "The Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee was organized in January 1999 as a Delaware corporation to advocate and undertake litigation against illegal collusion to control the price and supply of certain financial securities, particularly securities involving gold."

In pursuit of these goals, GATA has retained Philadelphia anti-trust and securities law firm Berger & Montague to look into market manipulation. What exactly can be accomplished, no one knows. But as Reuters quoted one gold dealer, "There are a lot of mysteries in the gold market and it might very well be a court or discovery action might turn up some interesting things."

So what's our view on this? Well, there is certainly some interesting reading on the GATA website. The supposedly shocking revelation seems to be that enormous economic entities are opposed to any rise in the price of gold. You can call it a conspiracy, but that's how markets work - opposing forces push prices up and down. Gold's no different from any other market, it just happens to be a huge market with huge players.

Naming those huge players as part of a cabal against gold gives the gold market a real mysterious "X-Files" kind of flavor. And people love to read about conspiracies. The trouble with this alleged conspiracy is that it has to involve at least the Fed, the Treasury, Clinton and other heads of state, the bullion banks, the central banks, Argentina, Australia, Canada, the Bank of England, many hedge funds and brokerage houses, Homestake, Barrick, Anglogold, the IMF, the Swiss electorate, etc., etc. Logistically, getting that whole crowd to act in concert would be about as difficult as re-staging the D-Day invasion.

And: the idea of having lawyers representing the poor, downtrodden gold-owners of the world in a U.S. court of law to try to prove this conspiracy is ludicrous on the face of it. But legal credibility is not GATA's real aim. For instance, before they hired real lawyers, the website of the Gold Anti-Trust Action committee defined "anti-trust" by quoting the always-authoritative World Book Encyclopedia.

No, the real goal of GATA is just to move gold prices higher. Or should we say, conspiring to move gold prices higher. Quoting the website: "When, through our lawsuit, we are able to show how short in gold even one major financial institution really is, other institutions will buy gold in quantity, knowing the short position in gold is too large to close without causing a substantial rise in the price of gold. Then the gold collusion game will be over."

Whether you think GATA's drum-beating is the music of a righteous cause, or just a whiny noise, will depend upon your view of how markets operate.,


 

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