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SEC: Government Destroyed Documents Regarding Pre-9/11 Put Options

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Washington’s Blog June 14, 2010

On September 19, 2001, CBS reported:

Sources tell CBS News that the afternoon before the attack, alarm bells were sounding over unusual trading in the U.S. stock options market.

An extraordinary number of trades were betting that American Airlines stock price would fall.

The trades are called “puts” and they involved at least 450,000 shares of American. But what raised the red flag is more than 80 percent of the orders were “puts”, far outnumbering “call” options, those betting the stock would rise.

Sources say they have never seen that kind of imbalance before, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. Normally the numbers are fairly even.

After the terrorist attacks, American Airline stock price did fall obviously by 39 percent, and according to sources, that translated into well over $5 million total profit for the person or persons who bet the stock would fall.

***

At least one Wall Street firm reported their suspicions about this activity to the SEC shortly after the attack.

The same thing happened with United Airlines on the Chicago Board Options Exchange four days before the attack. An extremely unbalanced number of trades betting United’s stock price would fall — also transformed into huge profits when it did after the hijackings.

“We can directly work backwards from a trade on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The trader is linked to a brokerage firm. The brokerage firm received the order to buy that ‘put’ option from either someone within a brokerage firm speculating, or from one of the customers,” said Randall Dodd of the Economic Strategy Institute.

U.S. investigators want to know whether Osama bin Laden was the ultimate “inside trader” — profiting from a tragedy he’s suspected of masterminding to finance his operation. Authorities are also investigating possibly suspicious trading in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Japan.

………snip….

What were the results and details of the investigation?

Apparently, we’ll never know.

Specifically, David Callahan – executive editor of SmartCEO – submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the SEC regarding the pre-9/11 put options.

The SEC responded:

This letter is in response to your request seeking access to and copies of the documentary evidence referred to in footnote 130 of Chapter 5 of the September 11 (9/11) Commission Report.

***

We have been advised that the potentially responsive records have been destroyed.

If the SEC had responded by producing documents showing that the pre-9/11 put options had an innocent explanation (such as a hedge made by a smaller airline), that would be understandable.

If the SEC had responded by saying that the documents were classified as somehow protecting proprietary financial information, I wouldn’t like it, but I would at least understand the argument.

But destroyed? Why? (See Afterword for additional details.)

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One Response

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  1. Incredible story

    Nikolaus

    June 21, 2010 at 4:26 am


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