How a Hedge Fund Manager (or Villain?) Is Cornering the Chocolate Market

By Daniel Fromson

Anthony Ward is known as "Chocolate Finger," after the notorious James Bond villain. And rightfully so, since chocolate lovers are sure to be angry as word gets out that the U.K. hedge fund manager has been accused of driving up global cacao prices by stockpiling a cache equal to 7 percent of annual global production, or enough to make more than 5 billion bars. The New York Times, which notes that Ward is not just "some rabid chocoholic," reports:

His play has some people up in arms. While some see it as a simple bet that cocoa prices will rise on falling supply, others say Mr. Ward has created a shortage of cocoa simply to drive up the price himself.

The German Cocoa Trade Association and others wrote an angry letter to the London exchange on which cocoa is traded, demanding that it take action against what the association characterized as a "manipulation."

The British news media has christened Mr. Ward "Chocolate Finger," a nod to the Bond villain Auric Goldfinger. And on Facebook, someone has created a "Choc Finger" page featuring Mr. Ward's face superimposed on a pig that is bellying up to the trough.

The fear is that Mr. Ward will become the go-to source until the annual cocoa harvest, which starts in October. With candy makers starting to stock up for the holiday season, they may be forced to pay him ever-higher prices -- and cocoa has already jumped 150 percent since 2008.

"The squeeze was really timed perfectly," said Eugen Weinberg, an analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/07/how-a-hedge-fund-manager-or-villain-is-cornering-the-chocolate-market/60417/