There Is too a Credit Crunch
Pedal to the Metal, Commander...

The Economics of Covert Actions

Ray Fisman features Arindrajit Dube, Ethan Kaplan, and Suresh Naidu:

Forensic economists examine the effects of CIA-led coups on the stock market: In 1951, Jacobo Árbenz Gúzman became Guatemala's second democratically elected president. Árbenz's authoritarian predecessors had been very sympathetic to... the United Fruit Co.... Once in office, Presidente Árbenz sought to take it all back, nationalizing UFC's Guatemalan assets and redistributing them to the poor.

But UFC had friends in very high places—the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, John Moor Cabot, was the brother of UFC President Thomas Cabot. The secretary of state himself, John Foster Dulles, had done legal work for UFC, and his brother Allen Dulles was director of the CIA and also on UFC's board. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we now know that the various Cabots and Dulleses had a series of top-secret meetings in which they decided that Árbenz had to go and sponsored a coup that drove Árbenz from office in 1954.

With a U.S. puppet back in the president's mansion, UFC's profits were safe. But it appears the company wasn't the only beneficiary of this Cold War cloak-and-dagger diplomacy.... By tracking the stock prices of UFC and other politically vulnerable firms in the months leading up to CIA-staged coups in Guatemala, Chile, Cuba, and Iran, the researchers provide evidence that someone—perhaps one of the Dulleses, Cabots, or others in the know—was trading stocks based on classified information of these coups-in-the-making....

Dube, Kaplan, and Naidu examine how the stock market reacted to events that no Wall Street trader should have known about: top-secret meetings of the coup-plotting cabals at CIA headquarters and presidential approvals of CIA-organized invasions.... These meetings and authorizations were all highly classified, however, and since you can't trade on information you don't have, UFC's stock price shouldn't have budged until the coup actually took place and the investing world learned of the regime change.

Unless, that is, some of the Cabots, Dulleses, or other insiders were using their privileged information to profit personally from a future coup....

For example, in the week that President Eisenhower gave full approval to Operation PBFortune to overthrow Árbenz, UFC's price went up by 3.8 percent; the stock market overall was flat that week. In all, shares of coup-affected companies went up by a total of 10 percent following top-secret authorizations, swamping the 3.5 percent gain that came immediately in the coups' aftermaths....

The CIA-led invasion of Cuba is referred to these days as the Bay of Pigs fiasco for a reason, and whoever was trading on insider knowledge seemed to place his bets accordingly—the pre-invasion increase in American Sugar's stock price was much lower than the gains for companies affected by the other, successful coups in the study.

Comments