Second in a series
This paper will review the evidence for informed, or insider, trading in the days and hours before the 9/11 attacks. From the very first, the phenomenon appeared to be world-wide. One consultant, Jonathan Winer, told ABC: “it’s absolutely unprecedented to see cases of insider trading covering the entire world from Japan to the US to North America to Europe.” The list of affected nations was long, and included the US, Germany, Japan, France Luxembourg, Hong Kong, the UK, Switzerland and Spain. Soon, independent investigations were underway on three continents in the belief that the paper trail would lead to the terrorists.
Press statements by leading figures in the international banking community left little doubt that the evidence was compelling. Ernst Welteke, President of the German Deutsche Bundesbank, told reporters that “a preliminary review by German regulators and bank researchers showed there were highly suspicious sales of shares in airlines and insurance companies, along with major trades in gold and oil markets, before September 11 that suggest….advance knowledge of the attacks. Welteke said that his researchers came across….almost irrefutable proof of insider trading.” Welteke was blunt: “What we found makes us sure that people connected to the terrorists must have been trying to profit from this tragedy.”
In the U.K., London City regulators investigated a flurry of suspicious sales processed just before the attack. “The Financial Services Authority (FSA), a stock market watchdog, was drawn into the investigation because it had a transaction monitoring department that checks suspicious share movements.” An FSA spokesperson confirmed that market regulators in Germany, Japan and the U.S. had received information about short selling of insurance company shares and airline stocks, which fell sharply as a result of the attacks. Among the WTC tenants were dozens of banks and insurance companies, including several that were now going to have to pay out billions to cover heavy losses from the attacks.
Assuming nefarious individuals were armed with foreknowledge, they stood to make a windfall by dumping stock and selling competitors short, not to mention the vast potential profits from last-minute electronic money laundering via computers which, the perpetrators had to know, would be destroyed within hours. Richard Crossley, a London analyst, stated that he had tracked suspicious short selling and share dumping in a swath of stocks. CBS likewise reported a sharp upsurge in purchases of put options on both United and American Airlines. The uptick had occurred in the days prior to 9/11. A put option is a contract that allows the holder to sell a stock at a specified price, within a certain time period. Sources on Wall Street told CBS that before 9/11 they had never seen that kind of trading imbalance. The only airlines affected were United and American, the two involved in the attack. American Airlines stock reportedly fell 39% in a single day. United Airlines stock dropped even more, by a whopping 44%.
Although many stocks tumbled, there were also big winners, especially in the military sector. Contractors like L-3 Communications, Allied Techsystems and Northrop Grumman all reported large gains. The biggest winner, though, was Raytheon, which manufactures Tomahawk missiles. During the week following the 9/11 attacks, Raytheon stock climbed by an astounding 37%. Prior to 9/11, the purchase of call options (a contract to buy a stock at a certain price) for Raytheon had suspiciously surged by 600%.
The sale of five-year U.S. Treasury Notes also spiked just before 9/11, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Among the purchases was a single $5 billion transaction, which pointed to large investors. The Journal explained that “Treasury notes are among the best investments in the event of a world crisis, especially one that hits the US. The notes are prized for their safety and their backing by the U.S. government, and usually rally when investors flee riskier investments, such as stocks.” Michael Shamosh, a bond-market strategist for Tucker Anthony Inc., told the Journal: “If they were going to do something like this they would do it in the five-year part of the market. [Because] It’s extremely liquid, and the tracks would be hard to spot.” The article added that “The value of these notes has risen sharply since the events of September 11.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched its own probe into allegations of insider trading. For weeks, the SEC remained close-mouthed about the scope of its investigation, then, in mid-October, sent out a request to securities firms around the world for more information regarding a list of 38 different stocks. SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt told the House Financial Services Committee that “We will do everything in our power to track those people down and bring them to justice.” By this time, however, the fix was in.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the SEC took the unprecedented step of deputizing “hundreds, if not thousands, of key players in the private sector.” Wrote the Chronicle: “In a two-page statement issued to ‘all securities-related entities’ nationwide, the SEC asked companies to designate senior personnel who appreciate ‘the sensitive nature’ of the case and can be relied upon to ‘exercise appropriate discretion’ as ‘point’ people linking government investigators and the industry.” The requested information was to be held in strictest confidence. The SEC statement included the following passage (emphasis added): “We ask that you disseminate the information within your institution only on a need-to-know basis.”
In his book “Crossing the Rubicon”, former LAPD detective Mike Ruppert explains the SEC’s unprecedented move to deputize:
What happens when you deputize someone in a national security or criminal investigation is that you make it illegal for them to disclose publicly what they know…. In effect, they become government agents and are controlled by government regulations rather than their own conscience. In fact, they can be thrown in jail without a hearing if they talk publicly. I have seen this implied threat time and again with federal investigations, intelligence agents, and even members of the United States Congress who are bound so tightly by secrecy oaths and agreements that they are not even able to disclose criminal activities inside the government for fear of incarceration.
Notice, this surely means that Al Qaeda had nothing to do with the insider trading. When the evidentiary trail led back to Wall Street, the SEC moved quickly to control the evidence and muzzle potential witnesses. Despite the best efforts of the SEC, a few details did leak to the world press. In mid-October 2001, The Independent (UK) reported that, “To the embarrassment of investigators, it has….emerged that the firm used to buy many of the ‘put’ options (where a trader, in effect, bets on a share price fall) on United Airlines stock was headed until 1998 by Alvin ‘Buzzy’ Krongard, now executive director of the CIA.” The evidence was all the more incriminating, because in at least one case the purchaser failed to collect a reported $2.5 million in profits made from the collapsing share price of UAL stock. The only plausible explanation was that someone at the purchasing bank feared exposure and subsequent arrest.
For the most part, the U.S. press failed to pick up the story, which clearly linked Wall Street and the U.S. intelligence community to the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, the New York Times cooperated with the cover-up. George Tenet writes in his memoirs that he recruited Buzzy Krongard in 1998 to become his deputy at CIA, probably to serve as Tenet’s personal liaison to Wall Street. Until 1997, Krongard was chairman of Alex Brown Inc., America’s oldest investment banking firm. Alex Brown was acquired by Bankers Trust in 1997, which, in turn, was purchased by Deutsche Bank in 1999. In the mid-1990s, Krongard had served as a consultant to CIA director James Woolsey.
In 1998, Banker’s Trust-Alex Brown refused to cooperate with a Senate subcommittee which, at the time, was conducting hearings on the involvement of U.S. banks in money laundering activities. At the time, Banker’s Trust, like other large U.S. banks, was in the business of private banking. This means that Banker’s Trust catered to unnamed wealthy clients for the purpose of setting up shell companies in foreign jurisdictions, such as on the Isle of Jersey, where effective bank regulation and oversight are nonexistent. According to Ruppert, Krongard’s last job at Alex Brown was to oversee “private client relations.” This means that Krongard personally arranged confidential transactions and transfers for the bank’s unnamed wealthy clientele.
Private banks typically offer a range of services to their clients for the purpose of shielding them from oversight. Private banks set up multiple offshore accounts in multiple locations under multiple names. They also facilitate the quick, confidential and hard-to-trace transfer of money across jurisdictional boundaries. In many such cases, the private banks do not even know who owns the account; which, of course, means that not even the bankers can follow the transactions with “due diligence.” Many private banks do not even try, for fear of scaring away business, especially from foreign clients. Even though private bankers are responsible for enforcing legal controls against money laundering, where such laws exist, in practice, oversight is typically weak or nonexistent. I was shocked to learn that although it is illegal for U.S. banks to launder ill-gotten money that originates within the United States, it is not illegal for them to accept dirty money from elsewhere. No surprise then, that many U.S. banks openly solicit business from Central American drug lords, arms merchants, and other shady entities.
For these reasons, it is little wonder that over the last several decades, law enforcement has failed to stem the growing international flood of laundered drug money and other illicit assets. Their failure has been spectacular. In 1999, a consensus of experts in Germany, Switzerland and at the U.S. Treasury agreed that 99.9% of laundered money routinely escapes detection. The experts estimated that the annual total was between $500 billion and a trillion dollars, a mind-boggling number, about half of which is washed into the U.S. economy, the rest into Europe.
After “Buzzy” Krongard’s departure to the CIA, his successor at Alex Brown was his former deputy Mayo Shattuck III, who had worked at the bank for many years. In 1997, Shattuck helped Krongard engineer the merger with Banker’s Trust, and he stayed on after Deutsche Bank acquired Bankers Trust – Alex Brown in 1999.
According to the New York Times, Bankers Trust was “one of the most loosely managed [banks] on Wall Street,” and during the 1990s was repeatedly rocked by scandal. In 1994, clients and regulators accused the bank “of misleading customers about its risky derivative products.” The case went viral when tape recordings were made public that showed bank salesmen snickering about ripping off naive customers. In 1999, Banker’s Trust pled guilty to criminal conspiracy charges, after it was revealed that top-level executives had created a slush fund out of at least $20 million in unclaimed funds. Bankers Trust had to pay a $63 million fine and would have been forced to close it doors but for the fact it was acquired, just at this time, by Deutsche Bank, Europe’s largest bank.
According to the New York Times, Mayo Shattuck III “was made co-head of investment banking in January , overseeing Deutsche Bank’s 400 brokers who cater to wealthy clients.” It is curious that Shattuck resigned immediately after the 9/11 attacks.
In a footnote buried on page 499, the 9/11 Commission Report alludes to Mayo Shattuck III’s likely role in purchasing the United Airlines put options just prior to 9/11. The note fails to mention Shattuck and Deutsche Bank by name, but attempts to explain away the charges of insider trading, as follows:
A single US-based institutional investor with no conceivable ties to al Qaeda purchased 95% of the UAL puts on September 6  as part of a strategy that also included buying 115,000 shares of American on September 10. Similarly, much of the seemingly suspicious trading on September 10 was traced to a specific US-based options trading newsletter….which recommended these trades.
Evidently, we are supposed to conclude that “American” means American Airlines. But here it could just as easily refer to American Express. If Deutsche Bank’s pre-9/11 trading was truly hedged, as the 9/11 Commission Report contends in the footnote, then it would not meet the definition of informed or insider trading. However, without more information, it is not possible to confirm or refute the facts in this particular case. Still, the commission’s token explanation is not convincing. Two statistical studies since published reported an unusual volume in options trading for both United and American airlines in the days before 9/11. The author of the first study wrote that the results are “consistent with investors trading on advance knowledge of the attacks.” The second paper, by the Swiss Banking Institute, reached the same conclusion. A third study looked at the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX index options) and found “abnormal trading volumes in September 2001 OTM, ATM and ITM SPX index put options, and September 2001 ITM SPX index call options.” The authors concluded that there is “credible circumstantial evidence to support the insider trading claim.”