May 13, 2016

The Stock Market is the Biggest Casino

At some point Parvizi cottoned to the idea that he didn’t have to wait for shares to move to make money: He could make it happen himself. He got to know reporters at the Financial Times and the Daily Mail and began speaking to them frequently. If they brought up a topic, he knew there was a chance it would appear in the next day’s paper and the shares would pop, he said. By then, he was also a big enough investor that buying shares and letting the market know about it could be enough to ramp up the price.

On his third day on the stand, Parvizi was cross-examined by Financial Conduct Authority barrister Mark Ellison. The lawyer asked him how he had made money by spreading rumors. The trader gave the example of an occasion when he phoned a journalist he knew and tried to “plant the seed” that a takeover bid for Sky, then known as BSkyB, was in the offing. The idea was that the reporter would notice higher than average trading and assume something was going on, he said.

At the prosecutor’s prompting, the judge turned to Parvizi and warned him he was at risk of admitting the separate criminal offense of attempting to manipulate markets by making deliberately misleading statements.

The stock market was “the biggest casino in the world,” Parvizi said. The only offense as far as he was concerned was trading on nonpublic information, which he denied ever doing.

You had no idea about rules on dealing? Ellison asked.

“You’re making out like I’m the only liar in the stock market,” Parvizi said, looking around the room for support. “If everyone told the truth, the stock market would not move.”

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