Tag Archives: prospectus

Episode 13. Other people’s money

This episode returns to 1999, the year of dotcom mania to explore how rivers of cash from private investors – other people’s money – changed the shape of finance forever. OPM paid for new infrastructure, made finance mainstream in the media, and helped establish a stock exchange for small company stocks. Fortunes were made – even the Queen got involved – but not by these everyman punters. We start thinking about why these ‘other people’ invest at all, especially as they are so bad at it.


The summer of 1999 found me, aged 25, an inexperienced young reporter at the newly founded Shares Magazine. We occupied a scruffy, overheated office in Southwark, just opposite where the heroes hung out in Guy Richie’s classic film, Lock Stock, just round the corner form where Colin Firth and Hugh Grant crashed through a restaurant window, battling over Bridget Jones. Borough Market, around the other corner, still sold fruit and vegetables to London’s cooks and costermongers. Yes, it was a very long time ago.

We lived then – as now – in interesting times. In 1999 the world really started to get excited about the internet. Stock markets, booming since the mid-1990s, lost all semblance of control. We looked forward to the internet freeing us all and at the same time making us all rich. Ha! See how that one turned out. But the money pouring into these internet stocks changed the way the world of finance worked for good, and that’s the subject of this episode. For anyone that looked, there were also plenty of signs that we would never manage to democratize the profits of the internet and use it to rebuild our institutions. We were, as always, just too mean and greedy. Too quick to dine out on other people’s money, or OPM as the spivvier boys called it. Of course, I never looked. I had parachuted straight into this world of paid-for lunches and the world jostling for my attention or hanging on my every pronouncement. A fellow scribe had landed the precious small companies correspondent job at a prestigious news outlet. In this, his first job after university, he would find himself speaking to one chief executive on one line, with a stream of callers trying to get him on another, his mobile ringing, thrown in a drawer. On one occasion he tipped a small firm and saw the shares rise 50%, adding £11m to its market cap. ‘At the age of 24’, he said, ‘that was a big deal’. Imposter syndrome? We were so far off the pace that we didn’t even know we were.

Once or twice, I did begin to feel that everything was not quite as it should have been. On one occasion I received a telephone call from a television investment channel, asking me to go to the studio and offer some share tips. I didn’t think that any of the shares on my beat were worth tipping that week, so I picked up the magazine and looked up the house recommendations, took them down to the studio and sang their virtues on air.

That should have been that, but a couple of days later, working late, the phone on my desk rang. The caller carefully explained that he had lost £10,000 on one of the stocks I had tipped. He wondered whether I knew of anything that had gone wrong with the stock, anything that might have moved the market so rapidly against him. I didn’t, and the newswires showed nothing. Had there been, the caller wondered, any heavy selling that I was aware of? There was none, as far as I knew, I replied. But, he said, someone must have been selling or the price would not have moved. A weighty silence, and the caller rang off. I told myself that anyone who staked ten grand, or rather, staked enough to lose ten grand on the recommendations of someone so obviously green behind the ears as me, got what was coming to them. Still a sense of disquiet, and perhaps even a gnawing sense of responsibility, persisted. I checked out a few more of the house tips, particularly those associated with more savvy, occasional contributors. All too often there was a clear pattern of the stock price ticking up nicely before the magazine was published, then coming sharply down on heavy selling afterwards. My caller had got tangled up in the selling. It could easily have been coincidence, as short-term investors bought on the tip and then took their profits. But then, it might not. Such practices weren’t uncommon, as it turned out: in 2005 a group of journalists from the Daily Mirror were convicted of buying stock ahead of a tip in a national newspaper.[1]

This was not the only time I was an unwitting accomplice to some petty market dishonesty. More than once I cheerfully repeated the stories I had been fed by some promoter or chief executive, only to discover that they had been less than scrupulous in their account. That my beat covered builders and mining prospectors probably did not help. As I learned the ropes I began to discern the most egregious misdirections, and when the phone rang now it was more likely to be an executive outraged that his firm had been portrayed in a bad light.

‘Your graph’, one said, ‘makes it look as if my share price is going down.’

‘It is going down,’ I replied, settling myself down for a long conversation.

‘But it was going up before.’

‘Yes, but for the last eighteen months it has been going down.’

‘So what will my investors think when they see this graph?’

‘That your shares are going down?’


The thought processes of investors – and note the possessive ‘my’ – were clearly an asset to be cultivated as carefully as the millions tonnes of gold that might, or might not, have been lurking under his exploration permits. More carefully, in fact, as the contributions of investors made a much more meaningful contribution to the chief executive’s salary than all that hypothetical, not-yet-quite-discovered, underground lucre. Still, I felt an obligation to our readers, for it was they who paid my wages. I took refuge in the old adage that you can’t please everyone all the time. Even if they did buy you lunch.

Hello, and welcome to How to Build a Stock Exchange. My name is Philip Roscoe, and I teach and research at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. I am a sociologist interested in the world of finance and I want to build a stock exchange. Why? Because, when it comes to finance, what we have just isn’t good enough. If you’ve been following this podcast – and if so thank you – you’ll know that I’ve been talking about how financial markets really work, and how they became so important. I’ve been deconstructing markets: the wires, and screens, the buildings, the politics, the relationships, the historical entanglements that make them go, all in the hope of helping you understand how and why finance works as it does. In the second part of this podcast series, I’ll be looking at the stories we tell about the stock market. You might be surprised how much power stories have had on the shape and influence of financial markets, from Daniel Defoe to Ayn Rand. I’m trying to grasp the almost post-modern nature of finance, post-modern long before the term was invented, the fact that finance is, most of all, a story. Start-ups are stories, narratives of future possibility; shares and bonds are promises based on narratives of stability and growth. Even money is a story, circulating relations of trust written into banknotes, credit cards and accounts. Stories set the tone, make the rules, determine what counts and what does not. A good stock market needs a good story, so if we’re serious about rebuilding financial institutions then we need to take control of those stories.

My inability to spot what was new in this bizarre, crazy, dotcom world, where 24 year olds could move markets and people followed them with their life savings wasn’t surprising, because everything was new, and everything was crazy, and everyone there was playing the same game, pretending that this was just everyday, and that every day for ever would be just like this: firms that had existed for weeks, with no products or sales, worth millions; two bit corporate finance outfits ranked more highly than industrial concerns. One mid-size broking and advisory firm, Durlacher – a newish outfit, though one that carried an esteemed City name – saw its book value climb enough for it to qualify for the FTSE100. Tragically, it never actually joined the FTSE. By the time the quarterly reshuffle came around, the bottom had fallen out of the market and its book wasn’t worth quite as much as had previously been thought. Durlacher later suffered the ultimate stock market indignity. It became a stock market shell, an empty carcass whose only value comes from the fact that it maintains a quotation on the exchange.  Individuals also found themselves in possession of substantial paper fortunes: ‘In January 2000,’ one small time financier told me, ‘one of my colleagues came to me and said, “I’ve just worked out what your options are worth”…In January 2000, my personal options, according to my colleague, were worth substantial double figures of millions. I’m glad I didn’t go out and spend it…’

Everything was new: the materials, the companies, the investors too. The mechanisms of investing, the online brokerages, the media circus of finance of which I was a very small part, was all new and all paid for by a new kind of investor. Before the Big Bang reforms it wasn’t possible for an outsider to deal even indirectly in the stock market. You needed to find a broker, who would often insist on providing advisory services – in other words taking control of your money and charging you hefty fees for looking after it. This required you to be an affluent, even wealthy individual. But the Big Bang reforms, which we covered in episode six, broke up the cartels and made it possible for brokers to offer services they called “execution only”, communicating with customers by telephone and post and charging small percentages to buy and sell shares as the clients wished. These brokers could make a living due to the explosion in popular ownership of shares.

You may remember the tell Sid campaign that accompanied Margaret Thatcher’s massive programme of privatisation. In a new social contract that emphasised self-help and entrepreneurship over collective provision for things like ill health and old age, share ownership became a respectable pursuit for the everyman Sid. It was part of the essential activity of shoring up one’s financial future. Besides, all Sid’s shares, flogged to him at a massive discount, had rocketed in value. Now he needed a mechanism to sell them, or even better to buy some more looking forward to profits on those as well. All of this, you may remember, came to a sticky end in 1987.

By 1989, many Sids must have wished they had never been told. Under this new social contract, the flourishing of the stock market was necessarily linked to that of the polity. What was good for Sid was good for the market and vice versa. In the early 1990s, the US Federal reserve began to lower interest rates aggressively and pour money into the economy in order to boost the stock markets. This tactic was employed every time the markets stuttered and became known as the ‘Greenspan Put’.[2] With interest rates lower than inflation anyone so foolish as to try to save found themselves losing money. Far better to borrow and invest! Cash flowed into property and the financial markets. The discount brokers sat up and took note. They were quick, too, to recognize the potential of the internet for their own business organization. In a competitive sector with wafer thin margins it offered the ability to cut costs to the bone, simultaneously reaching a broad public. Economies of scale allowed American broking giants to expand quickly into the UK and elsewhere. These firms were soon selling more than stock: brokers swiftly realised that they could offer a crude simulacra of the marketplace as experienced by professional traders, turning the whole business of private investing into a sophisticated leisure pursuit for the tech savvy investor.

It was the same for financial media. Before the 1980s British financial journalism had been preserve of Financial Times – which published a daily list of closing prices and some company news – and a few specialist publications. It was much the same elsewhere. Information flowed through personal contacts and private channels and by the time it got into the papers it was – quite literally – yesterday’s news. Growing private ownership of shares led to an explosion of publications and broadcast media. Shares Magazine was just one such example, a brand-new, nationwide weekly publication launched to an audience that hadn’t existed a few years previously and for a short while enormously successful. Market news became an accepted component of news broadcasting, and business channels thrived. The celebrity financial pundit arrived on our television screens. My boss at Shares, Ross Greenwood, was one such. His fame was nothing compared to that of Maria Bartiromo, the news anchor who, in a predictably gendered put down of a clever and dynamic journalist, became known as CNBC’s ‘Money Honey’. Though I feel less sympathetic knowing that Bartiromo now works for Fox News and has trademarked ‘Money Honey’ for future ventures. When life gives you lemons, I suppose. The whole thing became what critical geographer Nigel Thrift has termed a self-reinforcing cultural circuit, paid for by the torrents of private investor money that flooded through the brokers’ portals.[3]

Even the exchanges that traded these stocks were new. There was the London Stock Exchange’s AIM, founded in 1995 – which we dealt with in the last episode – and its upstart rival OFEX, operated by veteran small company market-maker John Jenkins through his firm JP Jenkins and Son. You may remember from episode 8 how a series of technological overflows spilled out from the LSE and led to the creation of this exchange. To begin with it wasn’t even an exchange, just a badge for the marking making activities of Jenkins’ firm, specialising in small stocks, and firms too unusual to list on the new AIM market. Initially, perhaps because it was just a trading facility OFEX’s entry requirements were light and application was straightforward: a Stock Exchange member firm, or a member of a recognised professional body such as a qualified accountant, could apply on a company’s behalf. It needed to present an application form, a questionnaire, and some directors’ declarations, together with a non-refundable application fee of £250 plus VAT. Jenkins made its money through trading, and OFEX was just a necessary mechanism to ensure there was something to trade. There were no great plans, no delusions of grandeur, as John Jenkins put it.

Entrepreneurial corporate financiers, however, soon saw an opportunity. They began to use OFEX as a place to raise funds for new businesses. The first public offer of securities on OFEX was Syence Skin Care, which raised £250,000. Jenkins reportedly told John Bridges, the advisor responsible, that he ‘scared the hell’ out of OFEX’s management, who had never envisaged that a company would raise money on the market.

It wasn’t even clear that this was legal, and OFEX was not really ready for such traffic. Unpleasant scandals rocked the young market. The most infamous was Skynet, a firm which offered satellite-operated tracking devices for cars. Having listed at 27p, the stock climbed to 275p, valuing the company – despite an absence of sales, or even a viable product – at £30m. Following outrage from investors, board resignations, demands from the tax office and the landlord, and finally an auditor’s declaration of insolvency, the shares were suspended in January 1998 at 4p. The reputational damage of Skynet’s demise was compounded by a rescue plan from the infamous Tom Wilmot, proprietor of Harvard Securities and the salmon pink Bentley.

In response, OFEX began to evolve the structure and organization that befitted a capital market. JP Jenkins moved to tighten standards and began to promote the market in a more systematic way. It supplied price and company data to resellers such as Bloomberg and Reuters, launching itself into the cultural circuit of late nineties finance capitalism. The Financial Times and the London Evening Standard carried closing prices of some of the more important shares. By 1999 a redeveloped website allowed private investors to access content that had previously been distributed via Newstrack, such as company fundamentals and announcements. In what OFEX described as ‘a turning point in the battle to get up-to-the-minute OFEX information freely accessible’ the site provided data in real-time in a format accessible to private investors. Today’s data-driven age might incline us to lose sight of the fact that this was a big deal – everyday punters could, in theory, participate in the market on the same terms as professional investors. The firm established a selection panel to screen firms that wished to join the market and emphasised compliance structures to the point of seeming ‘paranoid’. In 1998 OFEX changed from being a badge for a trading operation to a self-standing market, its business model based on charging listing fees to companies and providing market information. JP Jenkins remained sole market maker, a license to print money in a heady bull market. As the millennium drew to a close, its traders could not deal fast enough. A story circulated that they had put a bucket in the corner of the dealing room so they did not have to make even those short trips to the lavatory; the more prosaic truth was that they wedged the fire doors open so that essential trips could be done as swiftly as possible. By November 1999, John Jenkins, by now chairman of a substantial group of companies, found himself back answering the phone in the trading room. They were in clover.

At the centre of all this madness was the dotcom stock, and a good old-fashioned speculative boom. The seventeenth century had one in tulip bulbs, and the nineteenth one in railway shares. There was, after the war, a short lived boom and bust in the shares of dog tracks. By 1999, the investing public was in a frenzy for the next bit of dotcom excitement, as the Internet promised to radically reshape the way we did business. It did of course, like the railways; and like the railways, the real gains were captured elsewhere, by Google, Facebook and Amazon, not by the punters that funded the infrastructure. At the time, all that mattered was that shares kept going up and new issues on OFEX became seen as a sure-fire way of making money. They offered retail investors a chance to join the dotcom party at the beginning, as opposed to buying already inflated stock in the secondary market. Market euphoria fired up the ambitions of the meekest firms. One financier said, ‘I knew people who walked into financial advisers and merchant banks and so forth with a business plan and said, “We’d like a million quid please to see if we can prove the point,” only to discover that two days later they had a fully blown prospectus and they were raising at least 25 million.’

OFEX became a reliable venue for raising money, often for very speculative ventures: a firm called printpotato.com, set to revolutionize t-shirt printing via the internet, or if my memory serves me well, balls.com, your one stop shop online for anything ball related. The domain name is now an enthusiast’s blog on sports balls. The crucial device for fundraising was the prospectus, a 60 page A4 booklet jammed full of legal boilerplate. The financiers assembling them didn’t have a legal protocol to follow so they repurposed the offer documents of more senior exchanges. Investors could send off for a prospectus and digest these legal complexities before putting up their money. On the back page, a tear-off slip invited anyone inclined to send in a cheque. ‘Occasionally, said one advisor, you would get somebody calling up saying,

“Oh I have just sent in a £1,000 cheque for whatever it was, but when are you going to cash the cheque?”

“I will probably go to the bank later today,” he would reply.

“Oh I will not get paid until the end of the month.”’

How did these oh so sophisticated punters know about these exciting new offers? That’s where we, the media circus, came in. The crucial interface between the company raising multi-millions to fill a warehouse with tennis balls and the investors who hoped to be a part of this brave new world was twofold.

It comprised us journalists and the public relations firms. These latter operated a simple formula, described by one as ‘If I take you [journalists] out and get you pissed a lot you’ll write about my company’. As recent graduates, we were ideal candidates: we may not have known much about stock analysis, but we were bang up to date on the uses of free booze. Yet there was more nuance to this strategy than first appeared. The rule was to keep the journalists at lunch until late in the afternoon so they had no time to do any research, and cushioned by a warm cloud of foie gras, would write the story as it had been passed to them.  There was a fine line between good-natured inebriation and incapacity, so it was the task of the host to send the journalist back to the office while they could still write. 4.30pm was widely held to be the ideal breaking-up time; I never spent evenings foggy eyed at the screen rewording press releases, but I knew many who did. Ahem. Regional reporters would be entertained at ‘ARCE lunches’ – that’s Association of Regional City Editors – each given topped-and-tailed press releases with a regional anecdote or focus, and the issues would receive coverage all over the UK. The cost of all this hospitality fell upon the future investors, of course, although I remember one story about a firm that went bust at the mere thought of the restaurant bill, leaving the PR man to heroically pick up the damage and the tab. This same man, a ruby faced, genial version of Monty Python’s Mr Creosote, passed away just a couple of years ago in his residence in the south of France, until his late eighties a living reprimand to all things health and diet-related. Still, the formula worked. The extraordinary demand for stock threatened to overwhelm the small finance firms: ‘There was one particular day,’ one promotor told me, ‘when I personally fielded over 300 phone calls. My receptionist logged 275 phone calls that she couldn’t put through to me, because I was on the phone…they were almost always all the same, “Did I get a piece in your last float, can you put me down for the next one?”…On a Sunday, phones rang all day long, people in the hope of getting somebody on the line that they could give money to.’

Many advisory firms made a great deal of money in a short space of time. It had become customary to issue warrants (a form of stock option that allowed the holder to purchase stock for a nominal price) as delayed payment for advisory services, and firms found themselves suddenly sitting on enormous paper gains. Like independent record labels, small advisory firms only really needed a single success to enjoy a comfortable life hereafter. Durlacher, playing the same game with weightier pieces, ended up in the FTSE100.

These deals could be complex. Offer rules were based upon caveat emptor – buyer beware – so however imaginative the offer structure might be it need only be displayed in the prospectus and buyers were expected to discriminate accordingly. It was always other people’s money: it paid for the fees, it paid for the lunches, it paid the executives’ salaries until cash ran out. It bumped up the price of shares so promoters could sell them at a profit. Really greedy operators set up deals where they not only raised money for the company but also sold investors shares that they had issued themselves, so called ‘founder shares’. If you issued yourself 10 million shares at a fraction of a pence each (total consideration £5) and sold them on for 10p each alongside the issue of a further hundred million shares at 10p, that was £10 million for the firm – your salary for a while – and £1 million straight in your pocket.

It attracted all sorts. Sixtus, the founder of British venture capital who I so cruelly lampooned in episode four, was up to his ears in dotcom. He helped his brother, a dashing former naval commander, assemble a business proposition from the most tenuous of resources, somehow managed to get a member of the royal family involved as an investor, and floated the whole lot. Sixtus’s tame millionaires put up the first tranche of money and were handsomely rewarded when the public offer came. Shares rocketed and the Queen, for it was she, made just under £1 million on a £50 grand investment.

Of course, not everyone agreed that dotcoms were worth what was claimed. Daniel Beunza and Raghu Garud document a very public spat between two Wall Street analysts.[4] It concerned this strange new company called Amazon. Jonathan Cohen, a well-regarded analyst at Merrill Lynch, argued that Amazon should be valued as a bookseller and forecast $50 a share based on $1 billion of revenue. Henry Blodget, an unknown newcomer at a Canadian bank, called Amazon an ‘Internet company’ – some other kind of thing – and predicted $400 a share. Investors slugged it out until, as the writers put it, ‘the episode finally resolved itself in Blodget’s favour. The stock exceeded the $400 price target in three weeks, and Blodget entered Institutional Investor’s All-Star team.’ There’s a double epitaph here: Blodget became Merrill’s star tech analyst but was completely discredited when regulators discovered that he’d been selling his audience duds. He publicly rated one excite@home as a ‘short-term accumulate’ while telling colleagues that it was ‘such a piece of crap’, for example. He was fined heavily by the regulator and his Wall Street career was over. As far as Amazon was concerned, however, Blodget was right. Amazon was some other kind of thing and its current share price makes his target seem entirely insignificant.

In dotcom London, the role of super-aggressive sell-side tech analyst went to one Dru Edmonstone. When I left that world I thought I had heard the last of him, but in a story calculated to amuse and delight the editors of serious news outlets, Edmonstone – a distant cousin of the Duchess of Cornwall – was, in 2018, found guilty of fraud. He had, inter alia, claimed various welfare payments under the names of his sister, an employee of his father, Sir Archibald Edmonstone, he 83-year-old 7th baronet of Duntreath, and Fight Club’s Tyler Durden, and he had masqueraded as a doctor to sell refreshments to walkers passing through his family’s 6000 acre estate in Scotland. The Sheriff presiding said Edmonstone had “a long history of manipulative behaviour and sociopathic behaviour”, ideal personality traits, one might think, for the dotcom world.[5]

So there we go. Other people’s money attracts all sorts of takers. But what about the other people?

During those frenzied months working at Shares and similar outfits, I developed a fascination with these private investors. Professional finance holds that private investors are dumb,  and academic finance researchers are barely less scathing  although they prefer the term ‘noise traders’. Werner de Bondt, one eminent scholar, laments “the failure of many people to infer basic investment principles from years of experience”, as if one might magically infer portfolio management theory from a few shaky bets on Tesco or Carillion. There are plenty of studies showing the kind of things they do wrong. They trade too often, incurring excessive trading fees. They are overconfident, staking too much on risky firms and then are unwilling to cut their losses, because selling means owning up to failure. They are prone to buying stocks of firms that that have been in the news (and are therefore overpriced), that they work for (an unwise lack of diversification), or firms located near where they live. They follow each other, herding, and follow tips. I ended up writing my doctorate on private investors and the way that they behave; there are a few competing explanations, none of which involve stupidity.

In one sense, investing is just another form of consumption. Advertising and consumption scholars (and, in fact, anyone who has eyes and ears) have known for years that we buy things for fun, because they make us look and feel part of a group or culture, or because we are building ourselves a particular lifestyle and identity. No one is immune: in a consumer society even non-consumption is a kind of identity work. So we should not discount the possibility that investors buy stock because they enjoy doing so, for the same reason that they might have a flutter on the horses, or buy a pair of fancy shoes. The first being excitement, the second being a mode of consumption where one positions oneself as a player in the market. Companies selling investment services cash in on these ideas. You see adverts featuring racing cars, valorising greed, speed and immediacy. Investment firms conjure up new products that mimic the high risk/high return style of trading associated with the professionals. Another marketing strategy casts the investor as a canny, lone investigator, going up against the ranks of the bloated and lazy professional sector. Whatever your demographic positioning, I am sure there is an investment advert just right for you. Brooke Harrington, a sociologist who has written on investment clubs in America, witnessed groups deciding not to buy stock in Harley-Davidson motorcycles and La-Z-Boy, a manufacturer of lounge furniture, because of the cultural connotations of the products they sold..[6]

This consumption is part of a broader picture of investing’s place in the social world, one that is tied to the changes in social contract outlined above. Collective provision has been replaced by individual responsibility, and being an investor is part of the discharge of good citizenship. Harrington’s investment club members offer justifications along these lines, stressing the moral obligation to be in the markets. ‘Where else are we going to put our money? In the mattress?’, said one.[7] Investing is a means of stating one’s place in the world, a narrative performance as well as an economic one. Harrington writes that ‘When individuals buy a stock…they are also buying a story. And in buying the story of the company, they are buying a story about themselves: the great investment decision becomes a core element in the autobiography of the modern American’. In Taiwan, where private investing has become almost ubiquitous in recent years, the activity is shot through with social relationships: people doing each other favours, people using investment to demonstrate their superior situation, investing to gain access to social situations and groups.

With a colleague, I have argued that the economic relations of Taiwanese investing are generative of social relations and not, as is frequently supposed, the reverse.[8] In the UK, I found that investing was linked to stories of self-development. Investors make pilgrimages to fairs and shows that offer a noisy simulacrum of being in the market, although it’s really a market for investment services rather than investments: screens everywhere, lectures, debates, exciting products and risky services. In the case of noise trading, it seems that the noise is the bit that matters…

All this explains why people invest, but it doesn’t get quite to how they do so. I have argued elsewhere that investors are ‘docile bodies’ of neoliberalism, their activities configured to be economically productive for society. That process of configuration is the most interesting thing of all,  and it opens up a fascinating topic for next time: how people see and do in the market.

That’s nearly it for now. We are  starting to find the strands of our analysis converging. There is a story of technology, bringing new money and possibilities into a market that has already been shaped by the move to wires and screens a decade before. There is a political story, the simultaneous reconstruction of social contract to a market dominated model and the provision of conditions germane to activity within that model. The new polity is freighted with its own narratives of responsible and appropriate kinds of social action, while the technology offered dreams of future riches and the possibility that these would be democratised across the many who now participated in the stock market. Of course, it did not work like that. By the spring of 2001 selling had started in earnest. Alas, the law of gravity applies to speculative financial investments as much as it does to apples; the Queen lost almost all of that bonus million, or so the media gleefully reported. Our friends at OFEX found themselves rowing against the tide. The fledgling market gave back most of its profits and found its new infrastructure – a telephone system installed to cope with the volume, for example – coupled with its capital market business structure, an expensive proposition. Then came 9/11 a war in the Middle East, and a difficult couple of years for the industry. But OFEX did not give up yet. It struggled on, in pursuit of its missing ingredient: legitimacy.

I’m Philip Roscoe, and you’ve been listening to How to Build a Stock Exchange. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please share it. If you’d like to get in touch and join the conversation, you can find me on Twitter @philip_roscoe. Thank you for listening. Join me next time, when we’ll find out why people do what they do in the market.


[Cash register sound under creative commons licence https://freesound.org/people/kiddpark/sounds/201159/]

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/dec/08/pressandpublishing.mirror1

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenspan_put

[3] N Thrift, “Performing Cultures in the New Economy,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90, no. 4 (2000).

[4] Daniel Beunza and Raghu Garud, “Calculators, Lemmings or Frame-Makers? The Intermediary Role of Securities Analysts,” The Sociological Review 55, no. 2 (2007).

[5] Camilla’s royal cousin jailed after claiming disability benefit – The Scotsman and Camilla's aristocratic cousin 'claimed housing benefit' | Daily Mail Online

[6] Brooke Harrington, “Capital and Community: Findings from the American Investment Craze of the 1990s,” Economic Sociology, European Electronic Newsletter 8, no. 3 (2007).

[7] ———, Pop Finance: Investment Clubs and the New Investor Popularism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 149. The next quotation, 48.

[8] Yu-Hsiang Chen and Philip Roscoe, “Practices and Meanings of Non-Professional Stock-Trading in Taiwan: A Case of Relational Work,” Economy and Society 46, no. 3-4 (2018).