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The Secret Club That Runs the World: Inside the Fraternity of Commodities Traders

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Nestled deep in the towers of banking and finance are the commodities traders who spend their days gambling with oil, gold, and corn contracts. They’re highly-educated world travelers with a penchant for risk, and they’re here to bet big on the future of the raw materials that make our economies hum. They’re very wealthy, barely regulated, and can be a force for tremendous Nestled deep in the towers of banking and finance are the commodities traders who spend their days gambling with oil, gold, and corn contracts. They’re highly-educated world travelers with a penchant for risk, and they’re here to bet big on the future of the raw materials that make our economies hum. They’re very wealthy, barely regulated, and can be a force for tremendous good—or ill. Now Kate Kelly, the bestselling author of Street Fighters, shines light not just on the commodities market, but also on some of its key figures. Her characters include Pierre Andurand, a hedge-fund manager who generated the winningest annual performance ever for an oil trader in 2008, and Ivan Glasenberg, whose secretive Swiss commodities giant, Glencore, has been thrown into the spotlight. Kelly paints a dramatic narrative of immense power in the hands of a few, and the so-far hapless efforts by the Obama Administration to rein in the cowboys.


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Nestled deep in the towers of banking and finance are the commodities traders who spend their days gambling with oil, gold, and corn contracts. They’re highly-educated world travelers with a penchant for risk, and they’re here to bet big on the future of the raw materials that make our economies hum. They’re very wealthy, barely regulated, and can be a force for tremendous Nestled deep in the towers of banking and finance are the commodities traders who spend their days gambling with oil, gold, and corn contracts. They’re highly-educated world travelers with a penchant for risk, and they’re here to bet big on the future of the raw materials that make our economies hum. They’re very wealthy, barely regulated, and can be a force for tremendous good—or ill. Now Kate Kelly, the bestselling author of Street Fighters, shines light not just on the commodities market, but also on some of its key figures. Her characters include Pierre Andurand, a hedge-fund manager who generated the winningest annual performance ever for an oil trader in 2008, and Ivan Glasenberg, whose secretive Swiss commodities giant, Glencore, has been thrown into the spotlight. Kelly paints a dramatic narrative of immense power in the hands of a few, and the so-far hapless efforts by the Obama Administration to rein in the cowboys.

30 review for The Secret Club That Runs the World: Inside the Fraternity of Commodities Traders

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tim O'Hearn

    Anticlimactic and divergent from the implication of the title which is that commodities traders closely collaborate [to fix prices and harm society?]. Kate Kelly is a talented investigative reporter but I fail to understand where she is coming from with the tone of this book, which struck me as unnecessarily harsh. What you will find interesting about commodities trading is that the "fundamentals" make the analysis of companies for equities trading look boring. Yes, it is true that higher grains Anticlimactic and divergent from the implication of the title which is that commodities traders closely collaborate [to fix prices and harm society?]. Kate Kelly is a talented investigative reporter but I fail to understand where she is coming from with the tone of this book, which struck me as unnecessarily harsh. What you will find interesting about commodities trading is that the "fundamentals" make the analysis of companies for equities trading look boring. Yes, it is true that higher grains prices can directly result in starvation in the most vulnerable parts of the world. The stories here are disjointed and mainly go to show how many experts have no idea what they are doing and that they are often incentivized to take massive positions because being they rarely feel equivalent consequences of being wrong. If you're really into this kind of stuff and need new material because your friends won't find you interesting otherwise, it's worth a look.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Overall, a decent introduction. I wish it was heavier on the history, the mechanics and logistics, and the "meat" of what commodities trading actually is. As usual with more mass-marketed nonfiction these days, however, it focused on the squishy biographical quirks of the main players in the book. I don't care that so-and-so dated a model, I wanted to know how he was making his fortune and how the contracts worked and why he made such and such decision... And while there was definitely that, the Overall, a decent introduction. I wish it was heavier on the history, the mechanics and logistics, and the "meat" of what commodities trading actually is. As usual with more mass-marketed nonfiction these days, however, it focused on the squishy biographical quirks of the main players in the book. I don't care that so-and-so dated a model, I wanted to know how he was making his fortune and how the contracts worked and why he made such and such decision... And while there was definitely that, there was much that could've been left out, in my opinion. Also, there wasn't as much follow-through on what happens to the physical assets themselves, as they are traded, etc. Like many journalists, the author takes a rather Pollyanna view towards government regulation, and glosses over counterarguments, even though most of the characters in the book opposed them (save for her interviews with a couple of guys on the CFTC). This was irksome, and again, I'd rather know more about how the sausage is getting made and what the issues would be than the fact that other guys on the CFTC were put out that someone spent more time on CNN than they did. It piqued my interest enough that I will go seek out more informative works about commodities trading and hedging.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emily Zhang

    Ok descriptions, very light on the insight, and tries way too hard to focus on people involved and sensationalize their interconnections. Would not recommend to anybody that knows anything about commodities trading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julian Douglass

    To say I was disappointed with this book would be an understatement. This is not so much a book on what is Commodity Trading and how does it work, and more of a here are the main players in commodity trading and this is what they done. This is a good concept of a book, but it only satisfies the people who know what commodity trading is and how it works. The book offers a very minor description of what it is and how it works, plus the language and the stories go in to so much detail that those wh To say I was disappointed with this book would be an understatement. This is not so much a book on what is Commodity Trading and how does it work, and more of a here are the main players in commodity trading and this is what they done. This is a good concept of a book, but it only satisfies the people who know what commodity trading is and how it works. The book offers a very minor description of what it is and how it works, plus the language and the stories go in to so much detail that those who don't have an MBA will not be able to get it. The stories of some of the people she highlighted were interesting, but it was too heavy in business lingo for a common person to understand or get too angry at what they do. Big disappointment for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Angus (Just Angus)

    Took me more than a year to come back to it because it was so dense but pretty interesting.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris Langdon

    I found this to be a very readable book that gives you access to the world of commodities and a basic overview on how it works. It is filled with antidotical stories to illustrate points made in the book and not so much technical information that bog some business periodicals down and make you feel like you need to graduate The Wharton School of Business to understand it all. If you are interested in learning a little about the commodities market and it's place in the world at large this is a ni I found this to be a very readable book that gives you access to the world of commodities and a basic overview on how it works. It is filled with antidotical stories to illustrate points made in the book and not so much technical information that bog some business periodicals down and make you feel like you need to graduate The Wharton School of Business to understand it all. If you are interested in learning a little about the commodities market and it's place in the world at large this is a nice first book to cut your teeth on.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hal

    Not to much to say about this book. Aside from the catchy title that makes one pick up the book in curiosity it was a bit of a yawner. The main theme as in so many of these business/financial books that gives a glimpse behind the scenes and of the players calling the shots that dictate the movement of huge resources of assets, money, and power. The lesson as again in most if not all of these books is as long as a market exists there will be those who will attempt in cases succeed to manipulate o Not to much to say about this book. Aside from the catchy title that makes one pick up the book in curiosity it was a bit of a yawner. The main theme as in so many of these business/financial books that gives a glimpse behind the scenes and of the players calling the shots that dictate the movement of huge resources of assets, money, and power. The lesson as again in most if not all of these books is as long as a market exists there will be those who will attempt in cases succeed to manipulate or position to reap enormous profit, sometimes with legal means, sometimes not.

  8. 4 out of 5

    George Atuan

    Well written! Some people (me included) thought that the market of commodities was too big to be manipulated by a few. But thanks to all these new derivatives that can leverage positions, some traders have the gun powder to after the comodities market, some like Goldman just by warehouses and manipulate supply. Net/net well written and great story telling. Must read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    To heavy on the biographical details and not enough info on how commodities trading came to be what it is. The book could have used a heavy organizational edit as it skipped around decades, people and places without any apparent overarching structure.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Llewellyn

    A good view on the world of commodities traders through a handful of big names and major events in the last 20 years. Well-written and even-handed although I'm not sure the book really portrays it as a fraternity or a secret club. But it does a good job of portraying the debate over whether these large-scale trades are manipulating markets or not (of course they are), as well as seeing the flip side, like Delta's catastrophic bets on oil prices. I was surprised at how frank the section is on the A good view on the world of commodities traders through a handful of big names and major events in the last 20 years. Well-written and even-handed although I'm not sure the book really portrays it as a fraternity or a secret club. But it does a good job of portraying the debate over whether these large-scale trades are manipulating markets or not (of course they are), as well as seeing the flip side, like Delta's catastrophic bets on oil prices. I was surprised at how frank the section is on the Goldman Sachs aluminum arbitrage scheme. She even thanks Gary Cohn, the scheme's architect, in the credits. In contrast, I'm reading another book on independent film distribution industry and it sounds like that is much more tight-lipped even though the stakes are so much lower. It drags in a few places when it follows the ups and downs of market movements, but the benign personal details of individual traders are oddly compelling. And the section on MF Global seemed like it was missing the crux of what happened there—where did all the money go?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Topher

    I'm trying to read a little more non-fiction this year, and something potentially relevant seemed like a good idea. The book is well-written and engaging. I was amused at the number of intersections between people in this book, LTCM, 2008, etc - it seems high finance is a relatively small world. I will be curious to see if commodities trading is something I ever do, either for someone else or for myself. I'm at least trying to learn more on the topic. I'm trying to read a little more non-fiction this year, and something potentially relevant seemed like a good idea. The book is well-written and engaging. I was amused at the number of intersections between people in this book, LTCM, 2008, etc - it seems high finance is a relatively small world. I will be curious to see if commodities trading is something I ever do, either for someone else or for myself. I'm at least trying to learn more on the topic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Eduard

    2.5 Stars. OK book on commodities asset class and some of the big players in the market. Not a how to trade or strategy book (doesn't have to be) but a fair introduction to commodities. Book presents how industries (namely airlines) have to protect themselves as best as possible against adverse price swings in oil and how they go about doing that. 2.5 Stars. OK book on commodities asset class and some of the big players in the market. Not a how to trade or strategy book (doesn't have to be) but a fair introduction to commodities. Book presents how industries (namely airlines) have to protect themselves as best as possible against adverse price swings in oil and how they go about doing that.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anzig

    I thought the drop of oil price in 2020 will motivate me and encourage me to finish this book. But it's not. Why? Because there is no clear explanation how the trade was shown in this book. No explanation how the market worked either. Most of the book talked about how the successful trader life their life. Whats in it for me then? I thought the drop of oil price in 2020 will motivate me and encourage me to finish this book. But it's not. Why? Because there is no clear explanation how the trade was shown in this book. No explanation how the market worked either. Most of the book talked about how the successful trader life their life. Whats in it for me then?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    Started off great, but unnecessary deviations interrupt the plot. What part does Andurrand's wife's expensively priced wedding play in the story?? Other than that little niggle, it's a decent introduction to the world of commodities. Started off great, but unnecessary deviations interrupt the plot. What part does Andurrand's wife's expensively priced wedding play in the story?? Other than that little niggle, it's a decent introduction to the world of commodities.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nida Khan

    With a catchy title and a good introduction, it was not written in a way that one would expect it to be . Jam packed with unnecessary details with no coherence!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Schmeidel

    Well written, but not my style.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Great accompaniment to Kleptopia or Nicholas Shaxson's work. There is club, and you aren't in it. Great accompaniment to Kleptopia or Nicholas Shaxson's work. There is club, and you aren't in it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I stumbled upon this in my libraries new non-fiction shelves. Since I was actually once a commodities trader, back in the dark ages, the industry lingo and history was familiar. But the market I worked in was extremely different from the super-charged one that Kelly very patiently explains; especially before the Volcker Rule. She does a good job with a tricky subject. I might complain that sometimes the price of houses, vacations and clothing smacks of ""...the Rich and Famous"", it does substan I stumbled upon this in my libraries new non-fiction shelves. Since I was actually once a commodities trader, back in the dark ages, the industry lingo and history was familiar. But the market I worked in was extremely different from the super-charged one that Kelly very patiently explains; especially before the Volcker Rule. She does a good job with a tricky subject. I might complain that sometimes the price of houses, vacations and clothing smacks of ""...the Rich and Famous"", it does substantiate the value of these traders' impact. Kelly illuminates this piece of the financial services industry that caused so much pain. I recommend it, if you really are interested in some of the pre-crash shenanigans. Would bet the Volcker Rule and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission are two of the roll-back actions we'll see early in January!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ed Maher

    If you're looking for insight into how commodity trading works, you might be disappointed in this book. It does, however, do a good job of portraying key players and cuing some of the major headlines that commodities trading invoked over the last 10 years. It won't overwhelm you with details, but I was hoping for a more teachable moment that never really came. The book's conclusion seems to be that commodities was just another bubble, like real estate and high tech. Maybe so. I just feel that th If you're looking for insight into how commodity trading works, you might be disappointed in this book. It does, however, do a good job of portraying key players and cuing some of the major headlines that commodities trading invoked over the last 10 years. It won't overwhelm you with details, but I was hoping for a more teachable moment that never really came. The book's conclusion seems to be that commodities was just another bubble, like real estate and high tech. Maybe so. I just feel that the capacity for evil within this realm can't be so easily dismissed.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    The book gave insight into some of the personalities that trade commodities and those on the regulatory side. It also gave some recent history around how commodity trading may have driven up prices. I felt like though that none of the people in the story reached any real conclusion other than the CFTC chairman, Gensler. In the end I'm not sure what conclusion I was supposed to draw. We're the people doing things wrong? Is speculative trading in commodities bad? I couldn't tell whether any of the The book gave insight into some of the personalities that trade commodities and those on the regulatory side. It also gave some recent history around how commodity trading may have driven up prices. I felt like though that none of the people in the story reached any real conclusion other than the CFTC chairman, Gensler. In the end I'm not sure what conclusion I was supposed to draw. We're the people doing things wrong? Is speculative trading in commodities bad? I couldn't tell whether any of the actions traders or regulators took were detrimental or beneficial.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mac

    2.3 Continuing on my interest of economics and trading, I decided to find myself a book on commodity trading. Although this book does do a good job of highlighting where commodity trading came from and does have a good educational aspect to it. It lacks the story-telling aspect, in which it tries to do throughout the book. The story part of this book did not have me turning pages, the actual talk about commodities and how it works did however. Now some snippets of the stories are quite interesting 2.3 Continuing on my interest of economics and trading, I decided to find myself a book on commodity trading. Although this book does do a good job of highlighting where commodity trading came from and does have a good educational aspect to it. It lacks the story-telling aspect, in which it tries to do throughout the book. The story part of this book did not have me turning pages, the actual talk about commodities and how it works did however. Now some snippets of the stories are quite interesting. The story was not grasping but worth the read for the overview of commodity trading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rene Schlegel

    The effort to introduce us to these little known giants of world trade and their ultimate influence on our daily lives no matter where we live is laudable. Somehow I would have preferred this as a series of articles in a Newspaper. I could not detect a real structure through the whole thing but often enjoyed the language. I wonder who edited this, if at all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Yatin Patel

    Sheer waste of time. I was expecting details on major transactions that increased commodity prices many folds over the last decade. But all this book delivered was how few individuals lived extravagantly and placed futures and forwards with the money they had borrowed from others. Seriously, one of the worst business books I have ever come across. Better I stick to regulars like Michael Lewis.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Patti

    Somewhat interesting look at modern day commodity trading and limits imposed by Dodd-Frank. The most interesting chapter to me was Chapter 11 -- the one about Delta Airlines and its fuel hedging operations. (Is it cruel irony that a chapter about an airline is chapter 11?)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Wilde Sky

    This book examines the careers of a number of commodity traders. I didn’t feel that the title was proved and the book lacked any details of how the trading was completed (the mechanics / logistics) which would have been interesting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Tollemache

    Audible Cheat Alright book on some players in the commodity space the last decade or so. I wish Kelly had spent more time focused on these traders process, insights and role in the new commodity market structure and less time on their hot wives, lush lifestyles and cool Euro vibes

  27. 4 out of 5

    Raza Ali

    really enjoyed this book. I liked how she tied in more of the physical trading that takes place in commodities that most seem to overlook.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    This is a very fragmented book that seems to have no direction. The multiple character s highlighted seem disconnected. Aside from the vast sums of money collected, this book did not inform.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Peace

    With all these Wall Street/hedge fund/sub-prime mortgage/toxic bundle books, the main question is always- Is Gordon Gekko a good guy or a bad guy?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Miller

    An interesting look into commodities trading in the early '00s. An interesting look into commodities trading in the early '00s.

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