Your preschool teacher was right: One person can change the world.
Last year, Steve Perkins, a broker for PVM Oil Futures (company slogan: “The Oil Professionals”), went on a multi-day drinking binge and then proceeded to buy more than 7 million barrels worth of oil futures. These saucy antics drove the price of a kind of crude oil up to an eight-month high.
His company eventually lost millions on the deals and Perkins was banned from trading for 5 years in the UK, but this story proves something very powerful. If you think of the world financial system as a giant bulldozer with the power to literally move mountains (as when the price of coal goes up and mountaintop removal becomes viable) or even devastate millions of lives, which is what happens when speculative trading drives up the price of rice or corn, this story reveals that any drunken asshole can hop into the driver’s seat and send the whole system lurching towards the nearest cliff.
Steve Perkins just had a few too many whiskeys and turned his life into a mash-up of Leaving Las Vegas and Wall Street. He wasn’t some evil genius, just some lush trader whose balls apparently got bigger with every drink until he decided that cornering the market on crude futures in the middle of a bender was a good idea. Imagine if someone who knew what they were doing tried to cause some real damage?