As the world's most vulnerable populations succumb to surging global food prices—driven in part by drought, climate change, and a global food system increasingly vulnerable to the whims of commodity speculation—Goldman Sachs has managed to turn the poverty and suffering of others into profits for itself.
Pulling in more than $400 million in profits last year through risky and damaging food speculation practices, the Wall Street financial titan has once again profited from others' misfortune, The Independent reports Tuesday.
According to an analysis conducted for The Independent by the World Development Movement (WDM), 2012 investment practices in the "soft commodities" trade (e.g. wheat and maize) by financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, drove prices to unprecedented highs while bank profits increased and banker bonuses were handed out readily.
"While nearly a billion people go hungry, Goldman Sachs bankers are feeding their own bonuses by betting on the price of food. Financial speculation is fueling food price spikes and Goldman Sachs is the No 1 culprit."
Goldman's food speculation contributed to a roughly 68 per cent jump in profits for 2012, The Independent reports, while it increased the average pay and bonus package of its bankers to nearly $396,500.
Christine Haigh of the WDM stated: "While nearly a billion people go hungry, Goldman Sachs bankers are feeding their own bonuses by betting on the price of food. Financial speculation is fueling food price spikes and Goldman Sachs is the No. 1 culprit."
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The Independent explains:
Goldman makes its "food speculation" revenues by setting up and managing commodity funds that invest money from pension funds, insurance companies and wealthy individuals in return for fees and commissions. The firm invented these kinds of funds and continues to dominate the market, together with Barclays and Morgan Stanley. Swiss trading giant Glencore hit the headlines in August when its head of agriculture proclaimed that the US drought will be "good for Glencore".
The extent of Goldman's food speculation can be revealed after the UN warned that the world could face a major hunger crisis in 2013, after failed harvests in the US and Ukraine. Food prices surged last summer, with cereal prices hitting a record high in September.
As the global food crisis has worsened due to extreme weather brought on by global climate change, Rob Nash, Oxfam's private sector adviser, says the group is increasingly alarmed by financial food speculation.
"Especially in the light of increasingly extreme weather conditions which can reduce supply suddenly and severely deplete stocks," he said, the last thing the world's poor need is for that "volatility to be exacerbated by speculation and exploited for short-term profit."