You mean to do this: http://www.cpeterson.org/2011/03/10/why-gas-is-so-expensive-today-hint-its-not-libya/
in 1991, J. Aron—the Goldman subsidiary—wrote to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the government agency overseeing this market) and asked for one measly exception to the rules.
The whole definition of physical hedgers was needlessly restrictive, J. Aron argued. Sure, a corn farmer who bought futures contracts to hedge the risk of a glut in corn prices had a legitimate reason to be hedging his bets. After all, being a farmer was risky! Anything could happen to a farmer, what with nature being involved and all!
Everyone who grew any kind of crop was taking a risk, and it was only right and natural that the government should allow these good people to buy futures contracts to offset that risk.
But what about people on Wall Street? Were not they, too, like farmers, in the sense that they were taking a risk, exposing themselves to the whims of economic nature? After all, a speculator who bought up corn also had risk—investment risk. So, Goldman’s subsidiary argued, why not allow the poor speculator to escape those cruel position limits and be allowed to make transactions in unlimited amounts? Why even call him a speculator at all? Couldn’t J. Aron call itself a physical hedger too? After all, it was taking real risk—just like a farmer!
On October 18, 1991, the CFTC-in the person of Laurie Ferber, an appointee of the first President Bush—agreed with J. Aron’s letter. Ferber wrote that she understood that Aron was asking that its speculative activity be recognized as “bona fide hedging”—and, after a lot of jargon and legalese, she accepted that argument. This was the beginning of the end for position limits and for the proper balance between physical hedgers and speculators in the energy markets.
To look at this another way—just to make it easy—let’s create something we call the McDonaldland Menu Index (MMI). The MMI is based upon the price of eleven McDonald’s products, including the Big Mac, the Quarter Pounder, the shake, fries, and hash browns. Let’s say the total price of those eleven products on November l, 2010, is $37.90. Now let’s say you bet $1,000 on the McDonaldland Menu Index on that date, November 1. A month later, the total price of those eleven products is now $39.72.
Well, gosh, that’s a 4.8 percent price increase. Since you put $1,000 into the MMI on November 1, on December 1 you’ve now got $1,048. A smart investment!
Just to be clear—you didn’t actually buy $1,000 worth of Big Macs and fries and shakes. All you did is bet $1,000 on the prices of Big Macs and fries and shakes.
But here’s the thing: if you were just some schmuck on the street and you wanted to gamble on this nonsense, you couldn’t do it, because your behavior would be speculative and restricted under that old 1936 Commodity Exchange Act, which supposedly maintained that delicate balance between speculator and physical hedger (i.e., the real producers/consumers). Same goes for a giant pension fund or a trust that didn’t have one of those magic letters. Even if you wanted into this craziness, you couldn’t get in, because it was barred to the Common Speculator. The only way for you to get to the gaming table was, in essence, to rent the speculator-hedger exemption that the government had quietly given to companies like Goldman Sachs via those sixteen letters.