Unstructured Finance

Tyrone Gilliams keeps going and going despite charges

By Matthew Goldstein

It’s been an eventful month for hip-hop promoter and commodities trader Tyrone Gilliams, the man federal authorities allege defrauded investors out of at least $5 million.

The self-styled Philadelphia philanthropist was indicted by federal prosecutors on securities fraud charges on Nov. 14 after being arrested on criminal complaint in October. The Securities and Exchange Commission this week also filed civil fraud charges against the 44-year-old former University of Pennsylvania graduate and college star basketball player.

The SEC complaint and the indictment closely mirror the allegations we first raised against Gilliams in a Special Report in May, which revealed how Gilliams worked with a network of associates across the country to raise at least $5 million from two investment funds and then diverted that money to support his extravagant lifestyle. The money was supposed to be used for trading in Treasury STRIPS and to generate sky-high returns. But federal authorities contend Gilliams and his TL Gilliam LLC trading firm never did any trading as advertised.

Rather, as we first reported, some of the money authorities say went to fund a big weekend long charitable event in Philadelphia that Gilliams hosted last year, which featured a slew of hip-hop stars and other celebrities, including Sean “Diddy” Combs.

In a video we did the day federal prosecutors announced Gilliams arrest in October, I discussed how the Gilliams saga is something of a commentary on how otherwise savvy investors continue to be drawn to unrealistic sounding investment opportunities even after Madoff and Stanford. And in other way, the Gilliams story is also about how many in our society are increasingly drawn to a quest for fame, celebrity and living large. For more than a year, Gilliams had his extravagant lifestyle documented in stylish videos he posted on the web–all in the hopes of getting a reality TV show it appears.

Beef off menus, on agenda in Argentina

If there’s one thing that gets Argentines hot under the collar, it’s rising beef prices, so it’s not surprising that surging costs at the butcher shop are ringing alarm bells at the presidential palace.
    Local TV stations are reporting a collapse in sales and some angry steak lovers have even set up a Facebook group to promote a one-week beef-eating strike. Some cuts have gone up by as much as 50 percent since the start of the year, according to local media, forcing government officials to play down the hikes as a temporary blip and blame their old enemies — the farmers.
    Economy Minister Amado Boudou has blamed recent rains for the price rise, saying ranchers are keeping their animals out grazing on the lush Pampas pastures instead of sending them to market.
    President Cristina Fernandez, who enthusiastically promoted pork as an alternative to beef by comparing it to Viagra last month, also pointed a finger at the weather, but took a pop at ranchers too.
    “It’s true, beef’s gone up. It’s gone up a lot, as has the price the farmers are getting,” she said this week, drawing an angry response from farm leaders, who said short-sighted government policy and middlemen were the real villains.
    The government has curbed exports on-and-off for years to keep a lid on the cost of the nation’s favorite food and the current spike in prices has raised the specter of fresh disruption to shipments from the country, a leading exporter.
    But as beef becomes increasingly unaffordable, some Argentine shoppers might be taking the president’s pork recommendation a lot more seriously.

Morning line-up

News and views on the hedge fund sector from Reuters and elsewhere:

tea.jpgEx-Centaurus HK chief starts new fund - Bloomberg

Reprieve for Cohen? – Reuters

Hedgies’ impact on energy trading – Commodities Now

Investors pour in billions – Reuters

Citi taps the UCITS rush – FINAlternatives

Why are commodities risky assets for investors?

Recently I received an email asking me to explain why commodities are risky assets. ”I would think energy and raw
materials would still be in demand, even if Dubai defaults,” the writer said.

 It’s a good point. People need to eat, drink, drive and live. They can’t do it without commodities.

 But for investors commodities are risky. That is because they mostly invest using commodity futures, which are subject to
wild price swings because they react strongly and immediately to demand and supply news and changing expectations for the future.    Since commodities became more popular with investors they have also become highly influenced by market sentiment and macro economic indicators and that’s why they have been moving alongside equities.

Live from London Metal Exchange Week 2009

Nickel The great and good of the global metals industry gather for London Metal Exchange week — the flagship event for the industry.

With most base metal prices running way ahead of fundamentals, real and apparent demand unclear and leading economies at different stages of recovery or not, its a key time to take the temperature of banks, producers, consumers and funds involved in metals.

To follow us on Twitter look for hashtag LME.

Locked out of car, cut finger breaks monotony on crop tour

    It was a case of keys being accidentally locked in the car, a cut to the finger by a corn leaf and a chat about hail damage at a scouting stop on the Pro Farmer crop tour on Tuesday in Carlton, Nebraska.
    And thus, the monotony of scouting a seemingly-endless number of corn and soybean fields in the Midwest grain belt was broken, momentarily, by these incidents.
    At the stop in Carlton, a U.S. Agriculture Department official, in the car behind ours, accidentlly locked his keys in his rented Hyundai.
    Then, this reporter deeply sliced his finger on the leaf of a corn stalk.
    While the government man borrowed a phone from another scout to call the rental company and I dressed my wound with a wet napkin and a bandage, the farmer whose bean field we were scouting pulled up in his pickup.
    Then, Rich Mosier, a broker with brokerage and research company Allendale, Inc., passing through from his home in Davenport, Iowa, stopped for a chat.
    All of the sudden, it was a veritable meeting of the minds on the side of Highway 4.
    With a locksmith on his way, talk returned to farming.
    Scout Elwood Line, our driver and a farmer from northeast Illinois, asked if Carlton farmer John Lange was a ‘John Deere’ man, referring to the farm machinery maker Deere & Co.
    “Both — John Deere and International,” Lange said. “International combine and a John Deere head.”
    Mosier said the crops in this area, especially the dryland fields, were first hammered by hail and are now thirsty for rain.
    “The dryland has suffered the last three weeks. We haven’t had any big rains,” Mosier said.
    After about 45 minutes, the locksmith showed up to jimmy the door of the Sonata.
    Asked how he was doing, the locksmith replied, “Better than you, I guess.”
    Corn yield in the field we scouted  was projected at 193 bushels per acre, while the soybean count was 1,034 pods in a 3-by-3 foot area.

Oil Market Contango Widening

0709-contango-fig-11The spread between front-month oil futures and contracts for later delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange (see Fig. 1) has widened dramatically this month. (See Fig. 2)0709-contango-fig-2The widening contango frequently portends a rise in inventories. For example, in Fig. 3, it can be seen that when the discount for fronth-month crude to second-month crude widened to near $4 a barrel earlier this year, inventories jumped to 19-year highs. The relationship between inventories and the outright futures price can be seen in Fig. 4. 0709-contango-fig-30709-contango-fig-41

  •