Stock Market: secret maneuverings of the Plunge Protection Team


Richard Moore

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Juicing the Stock Market
The secret maneuverings of the Plunge Protection Team

By Mike Whitney

03/07/07 "ICH " -- -- The Working Group on Financial Markets, also know as the 
Plunge Protection Team, was created by Ronald Reagan to prevent a repeat of the 
Wall Street meltdown of October 1987. Its members include the Secretary of the 
Treasury, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Chairman of the SEC and the 
Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Recently, the team has 
been on high-alert given the increased volatility of the markets and, what Hank 
Paulson calls, "the systemic risk posed by hedge funds and derivatives.²

Last Tuesday¹s 416 point drop in the stock market has sent tremors through 
global system. An 8% freefall on the Chinese stock exchange triggered a massive 
equities sell-off which continued sporadically throughout the week. The sudden 
shift in sentiment, from Bull to Bear, has drawn more attention to deeply rooted
³systemic² problems in the US economy. US manufacturing is already in recession,
the dollar continues to weaken, consumer spending is flat, and the sub-prime 
market in real estate has begun to nosedive. These have all contributed to the 
markets¹ erratic behavior and created the likelihood that the Plunge Protection 
Team may be stealthily intervening behind the scenes.

According to John Crudele of the New York Post, the Plunge Protection Team¹s 
(PPT) modus operandi was revealed by a former member of the Federal Reserve 
Board, Robert Heller. Heller said that disasters could be mitigated by ³buying 
market averages in the futures market, thus stabilizing the market as a whole.² 
This appears to be the strategy that has been used.

Former-Clinton advisor, George Stephanopoulos, verified the existence of The 
Plunge Protection Team (as well as its methods) in an appearance on Good Morning
America on Sept 17, 2000. Stephanopoulos said:

³Well, what I wanted to talk about for a few minutes is the various efforts that
are going on in public and behind the scenes by the Fed and other government 
officials to guard against a free-fall in the marketsŠ.perhaps the most 
important the Fed in 1989 created what is called the Plunge Protection Team, 
which is the Federal Reserve, big major banks, representatives of the New York 
Stock Exchange and the other exchanges and they have been meeting informally so 
far, and they have a kind of an informal agreement among major banks to come in 
and start to buy stock if there appears to be a problem. They have in the past 
acted more formallyŠ I don¹t know if you remember but in 1998, there was a 
crisis called the Long term Capital Crisis. It was a major currency trader and 
there was a global currency crisis. And they, with the guidance of the Fed, all 
of the banks got together when it started to collapse and propped up the 
currency markets. And, they have plans in place to consider that if the markets 
start to fall.²

Stephanopoulos¹ comments have never been officially denied. In fact, as Ambrose 
Evans-Pritchard of the U.K. Telegraph notes, Secretary of the Treasury, Hank 
Paulson has called for the PPT to meet with greater frequency and set up ³a 
command centre at the US Treasury that will track global markets and serve as an
operations base in the next crisis. The top brass will meet every six weeks, 
combining the heads of Treasury, Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange 
Commission (SEC), and key exchanges².

This suggests that the PPT may have been deeply involved in last Wednesday¹s 
³miraculous² stock market rebound from Tuesday¹s losses. There was no apparent 
reason for the market to suddenly ³go positive² following a ruinous day that 
shook investor confidence around the world. The editors of the New York Times 
summarized the feelings of many market-watchers who were baffled by this odd 

³The torrent of bad news on housing is only worsening, with a report yesterday 
that new home sales for January had their steepest slide in 13 
years...Manufacturing has already slipped into a recession, with activity 
contracting in two of the last three months. How is it then that investors took 
Mr. Bernanke¹s words as a ³buy² signal?²

How indeed; unless other forces were operating secretly behind the scenes?

Market Rigging

³Gaming² the system may be easier than many people believe. Robert McHugh, Ph.D.
has provided a description of how it works which seems consistent with the 
comments of Robert Heller. McHugh lays it out like this:

³The PPT decides markets need intervention, a decline needs to be stopped, or 
the risks associated with political events that could be perceived by markets as
highly negative and cause a decline; need to be prevented by a rally already in 
flight. To get that rally, the PPT¹s key component ‹ the Fed ‹ lends money to 
surrogates who will take that fresh electronically printed cash and buy markets 
through some large unknown buyer¹s account. That buying comes out of the blue at
a time when short interest is high. The unexpected rally strikes blood, and fear
overcomes those who were betting the market would drop. These shorts need to 
cover, need to buy the very stocks they had agreed to sell (without owning them)
at today¹s prices in anticipation they could buy them in the future at much 
lower prices and pocket the difference. Seeing those stocks rally above their 
committed selling price, the shorts are forced to buy ‹ and buy they do. Thus, 
those most pessimistic about the equity market end up buying equities like mad, 
fueling the rally that the PPT started. Bingo, a huge turnaround rally is well 
underway, and sidelines money from Hedge Funds, Mutual funds and individuals¹ 
rushes in to join in the buying madness for several days and weeks as the rally 
gathers a life of its own.² (Robert McHugh, Ph.D., ³The Plunge Protection Team 

If a secret team is interfering in the stock market, it presents serious 
practical and moral issues. For one thing, it disrupts natural ³corrections² 
which are a normal part of the business cycle and which help to maintain a 
healthy and competitive slate of equities.

More importantly, outside intervention punishes the people who see the 
weaknesses in the stock market and have invested accordingly. Clearly, these 
people are being ripped off by the PPT¹s back-channel manipulations. They 
deserve to be fairly compensated for the risks they have taken.

Moreover, artificially propping up the market only encourages over-leveraged 
speculators and smiley-face Pollyanna¹s who continue to believe that the 
grossly-inflated market will continue to rise. Rewarding foolishness only 
stimulates greater speculation.

The tinkering of the PPT is sure to erode confidence in the unimpeded activity 
of capital markets. It¹s astonishing to think that, after years of singing the 
praises of the ³free market² as the ultimate expression of God¹s divine plan; 
these same conservative ideologues and ³market purists² favor a strategy for 
direct intrusion. The actions of the Plunge Protection Team prove that it¹s all 
baloney. The ³free market² is merely a public relations myth with no basis in 
reality. Saving the system will always take precedent over ideology; just as the
³invisible hand² will always be overpowered by the manicured and mettlesome 
fingers of banking elites and Wall Street big wigs. It¹s their system and 
they¹re not going to let it get wiped out by some silly commitment to principle.

The free market system is supposed to be ³self cleansing² through cyclical 
purges of over-inflated equities and over-extended speculators. Do we really 
want ³central planning² from an unelected, Market-Nanny that re-jiggers the 
system according to its own economic interests?

The Plunge Protection Team may wrap itself in pompous rhetoric, but it operates 
like a Fiscal Politburo inserting itself into the market in way that promotes 
the narrow interests of its own constituents. It¹s an outrage.

Besides, the market is so fragile it trembles every time someone halfway around 
the world sells a fistful of equities. It needs a good shakedown.

The years of deregulation have taken their toll. The market is resting on a 
foundation of pure quicksand. Collateralized debt, rickety hedge funds, shaky 
sub-prime equities, and an ocean of margin debt are just a few examples of 
deregulation¹s excesses. These untested debt-instruments are presently bearing 
down on Wall Street like a laser-guided missile. It¹ll take more than Hank 
Paulson and his PPT ³plumber¹s unit² to prevent the implosion.

Wall Street needs to regain its lost credibility with more regulation and 
stricter laws. The system needs a major face-lift. Still, even as the markets 
rumble and shake, Paulson rejects any move towards greater government 
supervision. According to the New York Times:

³Henry Paulson and top financial regulators said the government need not ‹ and 
should not ‹ provide greater oversight for the $1.4 trillion hedge fund 
industry, or, by extension, the trillions of dollars more in complex derivative 
transactions spawned by the industry. That stance is mostly free-market ideology
run amok. But it is also based on the unproven assumption that unregulated 
investing, which dispersed risk and reduced volatility as markets surged, will 
continue to do so when markets tank.

The upshot is a one-sided bet for investors. They have explicit assurances from 
regulators and policy makers that almost anything goes when the markets are hot,
and implicit assurances ‹ based on past experience ‹ that the Fed would lower 
interest rates to contain a financial crisis should one erupt. Unfortunately, 
there is no guarantee that easing up on rates would have the same powerful 
effect in a future crisis as it had in the past.

The next crisis appears to be building around weakness in the United States, not
in Russia or Asia or South America. That means money could flow out of the 
country if markets were rattled. That would weaken the dollar and require speedy
and complex remedial action by the world¹s central banks ‹ not just a rate cut 
by the Fed.² (NY Times)

The Times is right, Paulson¹s ³hands off² attitude is a classic example of 
³free-market ideology run amok². A meltdown in the Hedge funds industry or the 
derivatives market would bring the entire economy crashing to earth. Paulson¹s 
Plunge Protection Team is a band-aid approach to a much more serious dilemma. 
It¹s time for the government to get involved and protect the small investor.

Paulson has shown that he understands the problem; he simply resists the 
solution. Just a few months ago he opined, ³We need to be vigilant and make sure
we are thinking through all of the various risks and that we are being very 
careful here. Do we have enough liquidity in the system"?

No, we don¹t. And Paulson knows it; that¹s why there¹s a plan to fiddle the 
system and try to ³cheat the Reaper². But it won¹t work. This is the biggest 
equity bubble in history. Neither increasing the money supply nor lowering 
interest rates will fend off the impending catastrophe. We need to address the 
mushrooming risk that has arisen from lending hundreds of billions in sub-prime 
loans, and from overexposure in the hedge funds and derivatives markets. These 
things need to be confronted immediately as they pose a ³clear and present 
danger² which could set off a chain reaction of defaults and bankruptcies.

The world¹s markets are facing a global liquidity crisis which will become more 
evident as the real estate sub-prime market continues to deteriorate. This will 
undoubtedly be accompanied by larger and more ferocious gyrations in the stock 

Does ³Hans Brinker² Paulson really believe he can stop the flood by sticking his
well-burnished finger in the dike?

It¹s All Uphill from Here on Out

The U.S. economy faces daunting challenges in the near-future; a steadily 
shrinking manufacturing sector, increasing job losses in housing, a nascent 
currency crisis, and a real estate market that is in full retreat. Additionally,
the ³always dependable² American consumer is showing signs of fatigue which is 
pushing investors towards foreign markets.

This explains why ³the SEC said it aims to slash margin requirements for 
institutions and hedge funds on stocks, options, and futures to as low as 15pc, 
down from a range of 25pc to 50pc.The ostensible reason is to lure back hedge 
funds from London, but it is odd policy to license extra leverage just as the 
Dow hits an all-time high and the VIX 'fear' index nears an all-time low ­ 
signaling a worrying level of risk appetite. The normal practice across the 
world is to tighten margins to cool over-heated asset markets.² (Ambrose 
Evans-Pritchard, ³Monday View: Paulson Reactivates Secretive support team to 
prevent markets meltdown² UK Telegraph)

This is yet another red flag. The stewards of the system are actively seeking 
larger infusions of marginal debt just to keep the faltering market on its last 

That¹s not reassuring and it is clearly a step in the wrong direction. It 
further illustrates the worrisome level of recklessness at the top rungs of the 
decision-making apparatus.

Converting the PPT into another Safety-net for Private Industry

The original purpose of the Plunge Protection Team was to prevent another 
1987-type ³Black Monday" stock market crash. This seems like a reasonable way to
address the prospect of a major economic collapse following a terrorist attack 
or a natural disaster. However, the systemic weakness in the market and the 
great uncertainty surrounding hedge funds and derivatives suggests that the PPL 
is probably being used to stabilize an over-leveraged and thoroughly-debauched 

If that¹s the case, then we need to know whether the PPT really operates in the 
public interest or if it is just a stopgap for big business to avoid a painful 

It¹s the corporate warlords and banking moguls who have benefited the most from 
dismantling the regulatory system. The PPT creates an additional 
³taxpayer-supported² safety net for dubious debt-instruments which are finally 
beginning to unravel. There¹s no reason why the market should be manipulated 
simply to protect private investment. It is a fundamental contradiction to the 
workings of a free market.

According to Michael Edward: (³The Secrets of the Plunge Protection Team²

³Since 911, there have been at least three major long-term stock market rallies.
In all 3 instances, when the markets opened all the indexes began to quickly 
plunge. In each incidence, by early afternoon the markets were brought back from
the brink of collapse to the surprise of everyone, including historical 
analystsŠ.An event that should have sent markets spiraling downward was the 
Enron, et al, unprecedented corporate accounting scandals. Yet despite this, an 
unprecedented across-the-board markets rally began on July 24, 2002. Once again,
the European Press called it a ŒPPT rally¹". Edward goes on to say that outside 
the US it¹s ³no secret² that the market is being manipulated. He cites an 
article in the UK Guardian on 9-16-01 which states, "that a secretive 
committee... dubbed 'the plunge protection team'... is ready to coordinate 
intervention by the Federal Reserve on an unprecedented scale. The Fed, 
supported by the banks, will buy equities from mutual funds and other 
institutional sellers.²

There are myriad other examples which support Edward¹s basic theory. As the NY 
Post¹s John Crudele said, ³Over the next few years, people like me suspected 
that Heller¹s plan was indeed in effect. Whenever the stock market was in 
trouble someone seemed to ride to the rescue.²

Crudele is right; the market is being manipulated.

This may explain why the Federal Reserve mysteriously decided to stop publishing
its M-3 report. Since the Fed is the ³main resource² for buying averages in the 
futures market ³the money is injected into markets via the New York Fed¹s Repo 
desk, which easily showed up in the M-3Š. Without the useful resource of M-3², 
Robert McHugh, Ph.D.says, ³we need to find other tools to monitor when the PPT 
is likely to intervene, and kill shorts².

What? So by abolishing the M-3, the Federal Reserve has removed its greasy 
fingerprints from the smoking gun of market meddling?

It appears so.

Trust in the Free Market is Wavering

Whatever happened to the idea of completing the ³market cycle² and allowing 
markets to self-correct whether that meant belt-tightening or not? And, what 
about the ethical question of whether government manipulation should be allowed 
in a ³free market²?

Also, by what authority do the government and the privately-owned banks 
interfere in the futures¹ markets and shift momentum from the prevailing trend? 
Is this a free market or a command economy?

The precariousness of our present economic situation has caused these dramatic 
changes and strengthened the conjugal relationship between the privately-owned 
Central Bank, major corporations and the state. The market is more vulnerable 
now than anytime since the late 1920s, a fact that was emphasized in a statement
by the IMF just 2 months ago:

³Financial markets have failed to price in the risk that any one of a host of 
threats to economic security could materialize and deliver a massive shock to 
the world economy. It is clear that risks are on the downside of a sharper than 
expected slowdown in house prices that would produce weaker-than-expected growth
that would have implications for global growth and financial markets.² (³IMF: 
Risk of global crash is increasing² UK Independent)

Risk, over-exposure, cheap money, shaky loans, a falling dollar, low reserves 
and a confidence deficit; these are the crumbling cinder-blocks upon which 
America¹s Empire of Debt currently rests. The possibility of a major disruption 
grows more likely by the day. Consider the world's 8,000 unregulated hedge funds
with $1.3trillion at their disposal or the wobbly derivatives market and the 
effects that a sudden downturn might have. Kenneth J. Gerbino put it like this 
in his recent article ³The Big Sell Off² on

³With a global market panic starting in a low interest rate and, so far, low 
inflation environment, one has to be wonder about the real reason for 
(Tuesday¹s) sell-off. Easy money almost everywhere leads to leverage and 
speculation. No where is this more prevalent than in the global derivatives 
market. It is not out of the question that third party defaults and risk 
aversion designed instruments that collapse and go sour may someday overwhelm 
the financial markets. Latest figures from the Bank of International 
Settlements: $8.3 trillion of real money is controlling $313 trillion in 
derivatives. That¹s 38 to 1 leverage. These figures are just for the over - the 
- counter derivatives and do not include the global exchange traded derivatives 
in currencies, stocks and commodities which are another $75 trillion.²

³$8.3 trillion of real money is controlling $313 trillion in derivatives!²

This illustrates the sheer magnitude of the problem and the economy-busting 
potential of a miscalculation. That¹s why Warren Buffett calls derivatives 
³weapons of mass destruction². If there¹s a fire-sale in hedge funds or 
derivatives, there¹s nothing the Plunge Protection Team or the Federal Reserve 
will be able to do to stop a meltdown. The market will crash leaving nothing 

We are reaping the rewards of a lawless, deregulated system which has removed 
all the safeguards for protecting the small investor. There is no government 
oversight; it¹s a joke. The stock market is a crap-shoot that serves the sole 
interests of establishment elites, corporate plutocrats, and banking giants. The
small investor is trapped beneath the wheel and getting squeezed more and more 
every day. He has no way to fix the markets like the big guys and no lobby to 
promote his interests. He must arrive at his decisions by researching publicly 
available information and then plunking down his money. That¹s it. He¹d be 
better off in a casino; the odds are about the same.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed 
without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the 
included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing
House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is 
Information ClearingHouse endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

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