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Thread: 1985 - Hunt Brothers and the Great Silver Witch-Hunt

  1. #1

    1985 - Hunt Brothers and the Great Silver Witch-Hunt

    The Great Silver Witch-Hunt
    Hunt Brothers Were Villains to the Public; Victims of the Politicians

    The New American
    November 4, 1985

    Over a million readers of the Wall Street Journal for October 3, 1985 saw the headline: "Hunts Sell Off Most of Silver Holdings, Taking Losses Estimated at $1 Billion." The bible of American big business reported under a Dallas dateline that the Hunt silver sales amounted to $350 million, "ending one of the boldest attempts ever to corner the market in precious metals."

    Did the Hunts of Texas actually make an effort to "corner" the silver market? During the last five years, the Wall Street Journal and much of the American mass media have based all their related stories on the assumption that the Hunts sought to corner and manipulate the silver market. The reported $1 billion loss is the presumed price they paid for their failure.

    By using such suggestive language as "one of the boldest attempts to corner the market," etc., what the media and others have implied is that the Hunts operated some sort of conspiracy -- that they secretly tried to get control of the entire silver supply and then dramatically drive up its market price. But Nelson Bunker and W. Herbert Hunt were the most conspicuous "cornerers" in the history of the precious metals market. Not only were the brothers bullish on silver during most of the decade of the 1970s when gold was the investment rage, but they were substantial buyers in the open market.

    One of the few questions never asked in the last five years has been: Why did the Hunts first buy into what now appears on the surface to be a billion-dollar silver fiasco? The answer is inflation.

    Bunker and Herbert Hunt first got into the gamblers' game of soybean commodity futures in February 1977 as part of their investment strategy to fight inflation. Inflation and food prices are usually linked, and traders in agriculture futures use silver as a hedge, buying silver when soybean and grain prices rise and selling it when the prices fall, to make money to meet future trading obligations.

    February 1977 was only one month after Jimmy Carter had been sworn in as President. The Hunts, like a great many other businessmen, assumed that with the Democrats back in the White House, inflation was certain to rage out of control. The double-digit inflation of the Carter years confirmed their worst fears.

    Sons of the late H.L. Hunt, who in the 1920s founded the family fortune by winning his first oil lease in a poker game, Bunker and Herbert used their extensive holdings in silver futures as collateral for bank loans to buy 22 million bushels of soybeans at $6 a bushel. Within a month the commodity had jumped to $10, prompting the federal regulatory Commodity.Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in Washington to charge that the Hunts' $96-million profit represented an effort to manipulate and squeeze the market. The CFTC also charged them with violating the 3-million bushel purchase limit on soybean-future contracts by using the names of their various children and family.

    The Hunts were furious, insisting they were victims of government rule rigging for the benefit of the Eastern Establishment "insiders" who, they maintained, controlled and manipulated the commodity markets in New York and Chicago for their own advantage.

    "There are literally dozens of family ingroups in Chicago if not elsewhere in the country," fumed Bunker Hunt, "who trade soybeans or trade grains, and the government has never tried to say they are all trading together. I think the reason, frankly, they jumped on us is that we're sort of a favorite whipping boy, you know. We're conservatives, and the world is largely socialist and liberal. And, as long as they want to jump on somebody, they want a name and they want to jump on somebody that's on the other side."

    The evidence of a politically motivated plot to ruin the Hunt brothers is far more substantial than the allegations that they had sought to corner and manipulate either the soybean or silver commodity markets. It is in the area of silver where the evidence of a political plot against the Hunts is substantial.

    In the months prior to the October 1973 Middle East war and the Arab oil embargo, the Hunts, because of their Texas oil interests, took more seriously the threats of a Middle East oil embargo than did either President Nixon or his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Therefore, they began buying substantial silver futures as a hedge against rising prices that would be inevitable if oil became scarce. By December 1979, the Hunts held commodity futures contracts for between 35 and 50 million troy ounces of silver estimated to be worth somewhere between $600 million and $1 billion.

    When they began buying large amounts of silver, the price was less than $3 an ounce, rising by August 1979 to $9 and then spurting by January 17, 1980 to an all-time historic high of $50 an ounce. The price then plummeted back to $10.80 an ounce by March 27, 1980. The Hunt brothers maintain that the dramatic drop in price was due to board members of the established exchanges deliberately selling the market short to break the price.

    "All those exchanges are run by the shorts [those who sell short] and with the connivance of the shorts. They knew they could break the market because they were the guys voting," insisted Bunker Hunt.

    The price of silver falling like a rock sent a shock wave throughout the financial world, both in the United States and abroad. What worried just about everyone was that the wild run-up and run-down of silver prices was similar to what had taken place on Wall Street with stocks prior to the 1929 crash. Fear was compounded by an economy in a nervous state, suffering from double-digit inflation and high interest rates which, by the presidential election year of 1980, had become a prime political issue.

    Thus the Hunts' huge accumulation of silver made them prime suspects in an alleged conspiracy to corner and manipulate the silver futures commodity market for enormous profits. Both in the press and before subsequent congressional committees, the Hunts repeatedly denied such allegations. But those denials fell on disbelieving ears. Their case was not helped by the political climate at a time when silver prices roared up to $50 an ounce only to fall back to $10. But other circumstances certainly fueled the prejudicial bias against the Hunts.

    First, they were Texas-rich gas and oil men with associations in the Arab world, and Arabs were being blamed for the economic woes of 1980. Double-digit inflation and high interest rates had become a burning political issue that year in the contest between then-President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

    Second, not only were the Hunts oil-rich, but they were conservatives who politically and financially supported Republican candidate Ronald Reagan. The four congressional committees that held separate hearings on the wild price fluctuations of silver during the first half of 1980 were all controlled by Democrats.

    Third, there had been earlier CFTC allegations that the Hunt brothers had sought to corner the soybean commodity market. Though never substantiated, those allegations left a cloud hanging over the Hunts and their financial dealings.

    Fourth, the "silver conspiracy" case seemed to have been clinched when William Bledsoe, a former Hunt employee of 15 years, came forth to tell all about their business dealings, including their heavy involvement in silver. "As I saw it at the time," he was quoted as saying, "the Hunts were making a concerted attempt to manipulate or control the world's supply of silver."

    Bledsoe added to the developing melodrama by claiming that Arab oil associates of the Hunts were also deeply involved in trying to corner the world's silver market. That Arab angle was particularly appealing to architects of the conspiracy scenario since the high inflation and interest rates of the time were being blamed on the greed of the Arab oil-producing states.

    Then, in the full glare of news media coverage, came the Hunt brothers' appearance before congressional committees where they were portrayed as a pair of greedy, insensitive villains.

    "I want to make it clear," Herbert Hunt told a Senate committee in May 1980, speaking also for brother Bunker, "that at no time did I attempt to corner, squeeze, or manipulate the silver market. At no time did I participate in an agreement to corner, squeeze, or manipulate the silver market. At no time did I attempt or agree with others to manipulate the silver market."

    Challenging the conspiracy charge, the two brothers leveled their own allegation that, far from being villains in a conspiracy, they were themselves the victims of one. The dramatic drop in the silver prices, they maintained, was the direct result of decisions made by commodity exchange directors decreeing at the peak $50-an-ounce price that the Hunts could buy silver futures but they could not sell! The CFTC would later admit that "a series of actions prompted by the concerns of the CFTC" drove the price down from its historic high to a level of $10 an ounce within a few days.

    The Hunts were, as a result, caught in a nightmarish financial bind: Silver futures in the millions, purchased with hard cash at high prices, were forbidden to be sold as the value of silver skidded in price.

    In the U.S. stock market, purchases can be made on the basis of credit. The commodity market compels a speculator to keep on deposit what is known as "margin" -- that is, a percentage of the total price of the commodity must be covered in hard cash. What happened in the Hunt case is that the exchange not only suddenly increased margin requirements on silver, but also made these increases retroactive to earlier contracts. Thus the Hunts' cash expenditures became much greater as the margins they were required to meet were increased.

    The upshot was that the brothers, in order to meet their margins, were forced to secure from a bank syndicate what was probably the largest single private loan in recent financial history. The $1.1 billion bank loan, to save them from having to dump their 63 million ounces of silver on a depressed market, required them to put up as collateral just about every income-producing asset they owned individually and as a family.

    When the Hunts insisted before a Senate committee that they were not the villains but the victims of a conspiracy, therefore, it was understandable that their claims fell on disbelieving if not deaf congressional ears. But both Bunker and Herbert admitted they had no hard evidence to prove their own charge that commodity exchange directors had deliberately rigged the rules to hurt them.

    "I think the market manipulation was very obvious," Bunker Hunt told the Senators, "and I think you can take any market, whether it's soybeans, corn, cotton ... put the same kind of margin requirements to it and ... drive it down almost as much as they've done with silver."

    But, though the brothers could not prove their charges, neither could the four congressional committees come up with evidence of a Hunt conspiracy. In fact, prior to the May 1980 Senate hearings, the New York Commodity Exchange (Comex) issued a report on the conduct of the Hunts during their five years of dealing in silver futures.

    "No evidence was discovered during that period," the Comex report stated, "which might have suggested a presence of any squeeze, corner, or other attempt to manipulate the silver market and the market was maintained in an orderly fashion and each maturing futures contract liquidated properly."

    Before Bunker and Herbert were questioned by Senate committee members, witness after witness from the commodity industry made two central points: the run-up and then skidding of silver prices did no damage to industry or the economy. Not only did the economy escape damage, but silver brokers were paid all the commissions due, and both brokers and bankers made substantial profits.

    One CFTC commissioner told the committee that no firm in industry went under and, like the Hunts, "people all over the world" were scrambling to acquire silver and gold and other items of enduring value rather than place confidence in paper currencies."

    While the Senate committee had been focusing solely on the run-up of silver, and thus ignoring gold, the president of the Chicago Board of Trade, Robert Wilmouth, posed an embarrassing set of facts. According to Wilmouth, throughout history the free market prices of gold and silver have always risen and fallen together. On the day that silver peaked at $50 an ounce, gold had soared to a historic high of $850 an ounce. "Clearly," he added, "fundamentals were at work -- not a market manipulation."

    Oddly, while the Hunts were consistently charged with manipulation of the silver market, the charge of trying to manipulate the gold market was never made! This is puzzling, since all precious metals experienced a run-up in price.

    The parallel run-up in the price of gold, silver and platinum was affected, in fact, by an unprecedented constallation of global political and economic circumstances. The following brief chronology illustrates the point:

    August 1979: Chrysler on the brink of financial default.
    August 16, 1979: The Federal Reserve tightens credit.
    September 17, 1979: A Soviet-inspired coup in Afghanistan.
    September 21, 1979: U.S. dollar at its lowest level since 1978.
    November 4, 1979: The President of South Korea is assassinated.
    November 13, 1979: President Carter orders cutoff of oil imports from Iran.
    November 20, 1979: Armed assault on the Grand Mosque in the oil-producing state of Saudi Arabia.
    December 26, 1979: Soviet troops invade Afghanistan.
    January 15, 1980: Soviet troops reported on Iran's border.
    January 23, 1980: Canadian government raises natural gas price by 30 percent.

    These events raised concern about international instability and uncertainty, adding to the fears that inflation and interest rates were going out of control. One of the largest U.S. gold bullion dealers told the Senate committee that when silver reached $40 an ounce, Americans by the thousands flocked to sell silver rings, bracelets, flatware and coins.

    "Those ninnies, who lined up 200 deep to sell silver at $40 are today seeing the $12 silver," Dr. Henry G. Jarecki told the committee, suggesting that the rush helped bring down the price of silver. "I think [it is] the American public ... who ... made billions of dollars in the rise of the silver price," he said.

    One committee member was not satisfied that certain silver speculators could not bid up the price to artificial levels. "I think," Dr. Jarecki replied, "that to say someone is trying to do something requires you to get into his mind, and that is very hard."

    The case against the Hunts rested primarily on their vast silver holdings, which their broker told the Senate committee stood at about 39 million ounces between 1979 and 1980. But commodity expert Henry Marigner testified that the combined holdings of the two major commodity exchanges -- Comex and the Chicago Board of Trade -- amounted to 132.1 million troy ounces of silver. The U.S. government held silver stocks totalling 183.5 million troy ounces! "This hardly supports the allegations of cornering the market," observed Marigner.

    When both Hunt brothers testified, the committee seemed more interested in their extensive business activities than in their motives for investing in silver, asking specific questions about the financial dealings of their more than 150 companies.

    "The trouble with those hearings," Bunker Hunt later said, "is they're no-win deals. You may not get convicted, but you sure as hell don't get acquitted either." Brother Herbert summed up the feelings of the entire family: "I feel like the lady who had her purse snatched and then got arrested for indecent exposure because her clothes were ripped."

    Hounded by the press and pilloried by politicians, the Hunt brothers despite their losses remain resolute. The Hunts are better known now, but out a billion dollars as a result of their ordeal. Bunker, having had his picture taken so much by photographers -- whose film requires silver -- managed after the Senate hearings to exhibit his usual pluck and down-home Texas humor.

    "At least I know," he quipped, "they're using a little bit of silver every time they take my picture."
    Last edited by FrankRep; 04-07-2013 at 07:28 PM.

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  3. #2
    Conspiracy Against the Hunt Brothers

    The New American
    September 26, 1988

    "Silver Thursday" is a day that the Hunt brothers will never forget. On Thursday, March 27, 1980, the silver market crashed. The price fell from the January 21, 1980 peak of $50.35 to $10.80. More than eight years after this massive silver market price correction, the Hunts are locked in a courtroom dogfight in an attempt to defend themselves from a wave of related civil suits filed by investors claiming that they were financially injured by the Hunts' silver market activities during the late 1970s.

    On August 20, 1988, the verdict in the first of these civil law suits was announced. A federal jury affirmed that Nelson Bunker Hunt, Lamar Hunt, and Herbert W. Hunt had conspired with a group of other big silver investors between August 1979 and March 1980 to corner the world silver market, and to push up the price to artificially high levels. Federal District Court Judge Morris E. Lasker ordered the Hunts to pay a Peruvian government-owned minerals-marketing firm more than $130 million in damages. Lawyers for the firm -- Minpeco S.A. -- argued that their "short" silver investments were ruined because of the Hunts' "conspiracy."

    Mark Cymrot, Minpeco's lead attorney, proclaimed: "The verdict was a victory for the U.S. economic and legal system." Contrary to Cymrot's opinion, this verdict was neither a victory for the American economy nor for our legal system. If anything, it represents a major setback for both.

    "Cornering" the Market

    Like many other prudent investors during the late 1970s, the Hunts began buying silver as a hedge against inflation and political chaos. During the Carter years, the Hunts sought to protect their interests by moving away from worthless paper currency and into hard money. The difference was, rather than buying a few silver dollars for the grandkids and putting them in the safety deposit box, the Hunts got into silver in a big Texas way. From 1979 to 1980, they acquired 59 million ounces of silver -- about one-third of the world supply. The sheer size of the Hunts' silver investments has made them suspect in the eyes of their foes.

    One of the most outrageous charges made against the Hunts is that they were attempting to "corner" the silver market. "Cornering," in the nebulous realm of interventionist economic thought, means that a capitalist is able to amass so predominant a supply of a particular commodity that he is able to arbitrarily set the price of it and manipulate the market to his advantage. This, according to interventionist mythology, is achieved by "hoarding" nearly the entire supply of the "cornered" commodity.

    The notion of being able to "corner" the entire market on any commodity in the real world is economically absurd. It is based on the widely-held but fallacious view that monopolies spontaneously arise out of the capitalist system. Contrary to this Marxist theory, a monopoly has nothing to do with hoarding or with the domination of a commodity's supply.

    A monopoly is a special privilege granted by the government to a corporation. The classic example is the Hudson Bay Company, which received a royal monopoly charter to trade in the Hudson Bay region in 1670. A special economic privilege such as this uses the force of law to prohibit all potential competitors from competing in the market place against the monopoly firm. Without a special privilege eliminating competition, "cornering" and monopolizing the silver market would be impossible to achieve -- even if there were an outright conspiracy involving the Hunts.

    The Hunts had expected to make an estimated $4 billion profit on their silver acquisitions. Instead, when the silver market crashed, they lost an estimated $1.5 billion. If the Hunts enjoyed as much economic clout as their enemies claim, why didn't they use their "monopoly power" to prevent the silver crash in March 1980? Certainly it would have been to their advantage to hold prices up. Champions of the "cornerist" position have never explained how the Hunts could be guilty of a conspiracy to corner the silver market and be the chief victims of their own plot.

    Also contrary to Attorney Cymrot's view, the Hunt verdict is not a great victory for the American legal system. In fact, this case represents a new low in the annals of the abuses of the judicial system. The Hunt case is interesting because both the executive branch and the legislative branch of the Federal Government did their best to find something on the Hunts. They were cleared after a lengthy, hostile investigation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and during four separate congressional committee investigations. No criminal charges have ever been filed against the Hunts. It took the judicial branch using civil law -- under which Minpeco merely had to prove its case with a "preponderance of evidence" and not "beyond a reasonable doubt," as in a criminal case -- to nail the brothers.

    Ominous Legal Precedent

    To make matters worse, the Minpeco trial is probably just the beginning of silver-related legal problems for the beleaguered Hunts. After the verdict was announced, Herbert Deutsch, a New York attorney who represents investors in several other class action suits, stated that "this establishes the fact that there was a conspiracy. Now we will go after the brokerage firms and try to prove that the brokers were part of the conspiracy." Indeed, after this ruling, theoretically, every investor who lost as much as a cupro-nickel dime in the silver crash of 1980 could now sue the Hunts. Judge Lasker currently is considering two massive class action suits filed on behalf of 17,000 investors who claim to have been financially damaged by the Hunts' alleged silver conspiracy.

    As tragic as this legal mess is for the Hunts, it is worse for America as a whole. If the enemies of hard money and economic freedom are permitted to pull off this witch hunt on the rich and powerful Hunts, how long will it be before they use their twisted legal arguments and their absurd economic notions to destroy less affluent members of our society? How long before they come after you?

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    Inspired by US Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, this site is dedicated to facilitating grassroots initiatives that aim to restore a sovereign limited constitutional Republic based on the rule of law, states' rights and individual rights. We seek to enshrine the original intent of our Founders to foster respect for private property, seek justice, provide opportunity, and to secure individual liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

  4. #3
    The Great Silver Swindle
    Congress should have investigated Comex board members

    The New American
    March 3, 1986

    The following testimony given by W. Herbert Hunt was presented on May 2, 1980 before a House subcommittee probing the rise and fall of silver prices, amid allegations that the Hunt family had conspired to corner the silver market. As a result of the falling price of silver and other factors, however, the Hunts lost more than $1 billion in the silver market.

    In early 1979, I became convinced that the economy of the United States was in a weakening condition. This reinforced my belief that investment in precious metals was wise and, because of the rampant inflation, that soft currencies were vulnerable.

    I did invest substantially in silver futures contracts, but generally such purchases were completed before July 1979 when silver was selling for approximately $8.50 per ounce. Well after I established such positions, prices of silver on the two major exchanges, Comex and CBOT, rose to over $40 per ounce in 1980.

    I'd like to point out that silver is by and large an expendable natural resource similar to coal, natural gas and petroleum. Both silver and energy have suffered from a government policy of interference in the free market.

    Supply and demand has not been allowed to work. This has distorted prices and resulted in great price increases over relatively short periods of time.

    For example, steam coal sold for $4 to $8 per ton in 1979 and now brings $25 to $30 per ton, for a 400 to 600 percent increase in price.

    The average wellhead value of natural gas in 1973 was 21.6 cents per million cubic feet being controlled. Today, deep natural gas that is not subject to price regulation brings a free market price of $5 to, in some cases, over $6 per million cubic feet, or 25 to 30 times greater in price.

    Petroleum was sold for $3 to $4 per barrel and now brings $30 to $40 in the world market, depending on quality, for a ten-fold increase in price.

    Silver has enjoyed a similar price increase, rising from a price in 1973 of around $3 to $40 per ounce in 1980 before this last fall in price.

    I have read in the media accusations about my silver investments, and I want to make it clear that at no time did I attempt to corner, squeeze or manipulate the silver market. At no time did I participate in an agreement to corner, squeeze or manipulate the silver market. At no time did I attempt or agree with others to attempt to manipulate the silver market.

    Throughout the fall of 1979, the price of silver continued to rise despite the increasingly higher margin requirements imposed by the exchanges. In my view, it does not take a sophisticated market analyst to determine the effect of these higher margin and positive limit requirements.

    First, access to the silver futures market by the average investor or speculator was denied by the high margin requirements. The result: There were no small buyers. Second, the position limits required large traders to dispose of their contracts. The natural result of these artificial factors was to drive the price of silver down. Mine was the distressful economic situation of being compelled to be a seller without buyers.

    The exchanges finally broke the silver market on January 21 and 22, 1980. On the 21st, Comex limited trading to liquidation only. The decline in the price of silver continued until late March 1980. This rapid decline was the inevitable result of the actions taken by the exchanges.

    The reason given by the exchanges for these abrupt changes in the rules and, in my opinion, manipulative actions was that there existed an emergency in the market; namely, that there was a lack of silver for delivery brought about by the presumption that those holding long futures positions would stand for delivery.

    I submit that this was not the reason. The members of the board of directors, at least of Comex, are engaged, or represent firms engaged, in trading. Did some members of the board have a vested interest in forcing the market price of silver down?

    The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, April 24, 1980 reported that there were members of the Comex board who did have a vested interest in seeing that the price of silver went down. These were representatives or employees of major precious metal dealers, or floor brokers who had acquired short positions as the price went up. I feel that this committee should ascertain whether conflicts of interest existed with respect to board members and their firms.

    Were their actions between September 1979 and February 1980 market neutral; that is, did they not affect the price either up or down; or were they designed to drive the price of silver down? Did the board members profit from the market? Did the regulatory actions make this possible? Who had access to position reports, and was this information leaked to nonauthorized persons and firms in the market? It's been reported that one investor reported gains of $100 million.

    Have the board members engaged in market manipulation in concert or individually for themselves or their firms?
    Last edited by FrankRep; 04-07-2013 at 07:29 PM.

    Ron Paul Forum's Mission Statement:

    Inspired by US Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, this site is dedicated to facilitating grassroots initiatives that aim to restore a sovereign limited constitutional Republic based on the rule of law, states' rights and individual rights. We seek to enshrine the original intent of our Founders to foster respect for private property, seek justice, provide opportunity, and to secure individual liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

  5. #4
    exc posts , i remember all that as i was trading gold/silver then , it was wild , i even broke up hundards of proof/mint sets and sold the 10c/25c/50c coins for melt value . one thing it is still the rule that if margin rates are raised on any commodity they include what you have now . they did force hunts/an arab/a south american out by limiting the number of contracts you could hold , raiser margin requirements .

    i would add i was long gold futures , when the slide started the limit move was $50/oz , it was what is called locked limit meaning you couldn't get out , the next day the limit was $100/oz locked limit , you couldn't get out ( sell ) .same the next day . people started getting margin calls and maintance calls for more money , this created more sell orders as people couldn't make or didn't want to send more money . it was a land slide .
    Last edited by ILUVRP; 04-01-2013 at 07:12 AM.

  6. #5

    Thanks for posting the Hunt Brother story's.

    I have heard a lot of things over the years but never had it lain out so clear before. The inflation angle makes a lot of sense. In fact inflation or the devaluation of the dollar explains near all of our problems for the last 50 years. It is all starting to come to focus. It's like we were lost in a maze of lies.

    The haze is lifting globally.

    Will they have their drones in time?

    Inflation was really taking hold back then. It sort of overwhelmed us all at once.

    This timeless picture also seems to fit in this thread. I don't know who made it but it really points out the value of silver or our real money compared to the easily counterfeited fiat.

    Sorry if anyone is offended by my use of the word, "counterfeit". I'm a simple man and it offers a simple definition of what is going on.

    There are those inside and outside of our country that can fire up the fake money presses and print up whatever it takes to get their way.

  7. #6
    Do not be Sorry Carson , fake is fake,it is only worthless paper backed by faith. I have no faith in man or paper .

  8. #7
    bump. :-)

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