Like many people, not least the BBC, I was taken by a seemingly maverick independent trader, who was being in turns vilified and cheered for his apparent candour on BBC News last night:
Going by the name Alessio Rastani, the trader shocked viewers and Twitter-ers with quotes like:
For most traders we don’t really care about having a fixed economy, having a fixed situation, our job is to make money from it. Personally, I’ve been dreaming of this moment for three years. I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession.
Nice! But all may not be what it seems. Because Alessio (his Facebook page is well worth poring over) bears a resemblance to someone else who trolled the media previously. Impersonating a Dow Chemical spokesman, again on BBC News, “Jude Finisterra” promised huge compensation payouts for the thousands of victims of the Bhopal disaster in 1984.
Jude Finisterra was in fact The Yes Men‘s Andy Bichlbaum, who has been pranking world media outlets by posing as CEOs, pundits and public figures for quite some time. In this fantastic video, he discusses just that:
I posted a 140-character version of this blog on Twitter about 30 minutes ago, and Bit.ly tells me I’m well over 200 clicks already on the link to the latter video. So it seems this isn’t yet common knowledge.
UPDATE: This is just a (my) theory based on a bit of digging around on the internets. The title of the post is a question. I’m not claiming any of this to be 100% solid gold FACT here. The guy on the news doesn’t look like the guy in the photographs Alessio uses on his Facebook (photos can be easily manipulated, yadda yadda etc).
But – Andy Bichlbaum is literally a master of disguise. He’s this guy and he’s this guy. Neither of whom bear much resemblance to Bichlbaum in the Link.TV video; even though they’re the same person. And how do we know the Bichlbaum we see in the Link.TV interview is the “real” version? Something (even if no one’s hit the nail on the head yet) is rotten in Denmark. Is Rastani, as others are claiming, a clever self-publicist, trying to hawk himself as a Forex expert?
His website is down, but Google’s cache of LeadingTrader.com can be found here. The guy in the website doesn’t look like the guy who appeared on BBC News.
UPDATE 2: OK, here’s a curveball. This is a video from (or at least uploaded in) 2009, with a report by “Alessio Rastani, 33, [a] London stock market trader of Italo-Iranian origin. He regularly visits his relatives in Tehran.” Interesting. Thanks to @ardvarc:
And here’s the video:
UPDATE 3: Now Forbes have spoken to him. And it’s a four-page article. *grumbles about extra clicks and page impressions*
FORBES: Where did you grow up?
AR: I grew up in London. I spent some time in Italy, some time with my folks in America. My uncle lives in California, two uncles in California. My folks, I can’t comment on them, to be honest. I can’t say where they are right now, they’re temporarily out of the country.
FORBES: What do you think of the attention you’ve received since going on TV?
AR: I think it’s overblown. I have no idea why I’m getting this attention. I don’t think it was news. For someone to say what I said, I thought everybody already knew this kind of stuff. The big players of funds rule the world, I don’t think that was news. And what I said about making money from a crash, obviously not everybody knows about that, you can make money from a downward market. A lot of people just got the wrong end of the foot, misunderstood what I was saying. They thought I was joyful or licking my lips about the idea of making money from people’s miseries. That’s probably the way it looked on the video. But if they watch the whole video, what I was really trying to say is people need to educate themselves about how to do that… what I was trying to say was, look, everyone should basically prepare. I was trying to be the good guy. If this market’s going to crash, then you’ve got to prepare yourself. You’ve got to basically learn how to make money from this. Otherwise you’ll be like I did 10 years ago … I made some huge mistakes 10 years ago, during the dotcom crash. I realized it was a falling knife. I was trying to say look guys, it’s not just for traders, it’s for everyone. They should ask me how to do it, I will help you.
FORBES: Have you heard of the Yes Men?
AR: Heard of it before? Not quite sure why they’re calling me that. I have no idea where that came from.
FORBES: Because there’s a video of you posing as a Dow Chemical spokesman.
AR: What? A Dow Chemical spokesman? Have you seen this video? That can’t be right. I’ve never spoken to Dow Chemical before in my life. Maybe it’s a fake. Are you sure about this? Honestly, listen, I’ve no idea where that came from. That interview yesterday was one of the first ones I did live.
I don’t know why they think it’s a hoax. No, I am a trader absolutely. I have trader friends who could back that up. One of my mentors is a bestselling author and trader. Everyone knows me.
I don’t know anything about trading, and I’m pretty sure I have discalculia, so the financial stuff they discuss is double-Dutch to me.
For the time being, you win again internets!
FIN: The Yes Men respond via the Guardian:
This week, an insignificant market trader and self-proclaimed financial self-help guru, Alessio Rastani, rocketed to stardom after speaking frankly on the BBC about the collapsing market and his plans to make money from it. We Yes Men heard about it right away, because soon after the broadcast, people started emailing from all over the world to congratulate us on another prank well done. They couldn’t imagine that a real trader could possibly speak so candidly about the market, so they assumed Rastani was one of our posturings.
He wasn’t. Rastani is small potatoes, but he’s a real trader. And he said nothing that would suggest otherwise; he simply described what he does, more honestly than a true insider would, but quite accurately.
And that’s the end of that chapter. But I hope the Yes Men realise they’re now needed more than ever, and these events stir them into more attacks on this crooked status quo, where the rich and powerful do what they like to whoever they choose.Tags: alessio rastani, andy bichlbaum, bbc, bhopal, bit.ly, disguise, dow chemical, dream, economy, fake, global bailout, impersonation, journalism, leading trader, leadingtrader.com, news, recession, satire, trader, trolling, trolls, twitter, yes men, youtube