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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump, the F-35, and insider trading

Well, I never thought I'd link to this site, but the story is too interesting to pass up. Yes, it could be a rare example of anti-Trump fake news -- and yes, if it is, I'll make all due apologies.

Basically, the claim is this: Yesterday morning, Donald Trump tweeted the following...
"The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th."
The tweet seems odd in and of itself. When has Trump ever offered a judgment on a weapons system?

Here's the fascinating part: Mere minutes before this tweet (time-stamped at 8:20 am), someone shorted Lockheed Martin stock. Lockheed Martin manufactures the F-35.

Let's try to verify this claim. Donald Trump did indeed make that tweet, and the stock plummeted as a result. And the same "shorted" claim was made on Twitter yesterday by someone named Christopher Bouzy, about whom I know zilch. He even provided a helpful graph...

Other interested parties have claimed that Bouzy has it all wrong, since the volume was fairly minor. Then again, a complete disdain for subtlety might have attracted the attention of our otherwise nearly-comatose SEC.

What do you think? I could go either way on this one. From what I've read, the F-35 really is a boondoogle that we would be better off without. But this post isn't about the merits of one program -- it's about the possibility of insider trading. And I simply cannot recall another time when a president-elect discussed a specific government contract in this way.

Of course, if something similar had happened to anyone named Clinton, a million voices would now be screaming guilty guilty guilty!

Now I'm wondering if there is a similar backstory to Trump's badmouthing of the new Air Force One, produced by Boeing...

Added note: A writer named David Axe has noticed the same oddity.
The timing of Trump’s rant and the hit to Lockheed’s stock is … weird, to say the least. It appears someone began dumping shares before Trump pressed “tweet.” As though the sell-off and Trump’s attack were coordinated.
Axe references the Bouzy Twitter discussion.
Bouzy asked his Twitter followers to verify that Twitter accurately displays the time that a user publishes a tweet. The consensus seems to be...yes, the timestamp is accurate.
But Bouzy defended his suspicion. “Do not focus on the amount (volume), focus on the timing,” he tweeted. “Someone started too early and gave it away.”

Who that someone might be remains a mystery. Trump has not released his tax returns, voluntarily detailed his personal debt or proved his claim that he sold his own stocks in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest as president.

We don’t know how much Trump is worth, exactly where his money comes from or precisely how he plans to continue making money after he takes office in January 2017. Who has inside knowledge of Trump’s plans? To whom does Trump owe financial favors? We don’t know.
If nothing else, this episode demonstrates why Presidents should put all of their holdings into a blind trust.
The reason Trump wanted his name to remain as Executive Producer or Creator is he gets a couple hundred thousand dollars per episode. Celebrity Apprentice with Arnold Schwartzenegger starts this January.
Isn't there also a Bernie Sanders angle in all this?
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