Have you ever wondered why Nigel Farage and the Brexit merchants are ? No doubt his has something to do with it, but perhaps his sudden rise to wealth through a single, well-timed bet is also part of the fascination.
In 1992 Soros was a relatively unknown hedge fund trader. Then he decided to place a . An outrageously risky bet with potentially momentous consequences: he bet against the British economy.
This was in the run-up to the infamous , when the Bank of England was aggressively buying the pound on foreign exchange markets to defend its overvalued position in the exchange rate mechanism, the system that attempted to fix the rates of European currencies against each other in preparation for the single currency.
By August 1992, Soros had bet at least . He began – a technique used to profit from the falling price of a stock. In this case, Soros bet that the Bank of England would not be able to defend the value of the pound and that, when it fell dramatically, he would make massive gains. His bet paid off, making him a profit of about £1bn.
So, what if the Brexiteer’s obsession with Soros stems from similarities between his good fortune and the bounty claimed by hedge funds betting against the pound on the night of the referendum? There has long been speculation surrounding Farage’s interview with Sky News on the evening of the EU referendum, when he appeared to concede defeat. On Monday detailed analysis by Bloomberg noted that his “concessions” that night could have helped hedge funds following the true Brexit result.
With early suggestions that remain had won the day, the pound leapt to its highest mark against the dollar in six months. But hedge funds had hired the services of an array of pollsters in the days leading up to the referendum, selling them advance information – including data that would have been illegal for them to give the public. Buoyed up by private exit polls, which showed victory for the leave campaign, hedge funds were perfectly placed to earn fortunes by short-selling the British pound.
Bloomberg raises important questions about whether Farage, a former commodities broker with many friends and backers in the financial sector, said remain had won with the intention of benefiting hedge funds who stood to gain from a sudden drop in the pound.
Farage told Bloomberg his concessions were not aimed at moving the markets for anyone, and that he did not try to mislead people by conceding defeat. But speculating on Brexit has made at least one very rich Brexiteer that bit richer. was one of the largest donors to leave, handing over to the campaign.
On hearing the referendum result, Odey said: “I feel fantastic. It’s a fantastic decision by the electorate.” Odey had a to feel “fantastic”. He’d bet on Brexit hitting the pound by “shorting” sterling and moving 65% of his fund into gold in anticipation. Odey’s fund made £220m in the space of just a few hours. As he : “I think I may be the winner.”
Hedge funds by betting on economic events, and hit the big time caused by the 2008 financial crisis. EU policies designed to restore stability to financial markets, such as the 2012 , are anathema to this sort of investor. Odey has voiced his of hedge funds and has new EU banking rules will contribute to a “terrifying” environment for “investors”, although a distinction between investors and gamblers might be helpful here.
Hedge funds, including the one run by Odey, made by betting on the damage Brexit would do to the pound and UK stock markets. Some of his hedge funds have since , but if the UK actually leaves the EU, the ensuing volatility will create excellent conditions for them to roll their dice again. He’s on Britain’s largest firms performing badly in the wake of Brexit. But such is financial engineering that you don’t even need to bet on something going in a particular direction – you can also bet that uncertainty itself will go up or down.
The threats posed by leaving the EU to the many – our jobs, rights and protections – seem to be benefiting an elite few. These City wide boys – the real – have used and continue to use Brexit as a way to swell their own wealth and power. This could be the ultimate big short, and a victory for disaster capitalism. It seems that : “A vote for Brexit would make some people very rich – but most voters considerably poorer.”
• Molly Scott Cato is the Green party speaker on economy and finance and spokeswoman for EU relations