Business Insider quotes Jeffrey Carter, a former board member of the Chicago Mercantile exchange and writer of the blog, Points and Figures, who puts it this way: “They [Goldman] can influence the price heavily because they affect a price where the entire market pegs.”

Goldman also says this:

Recent news reports have inaccurately accused Metro of deliberately creating aluminum shortages and incorrectly asserted that Metro moves aluminum from one warehouse to another in order to earn more rent fees.

• In fact, it is the owners of the metal who direct warehouse operators to dispose of stored metal or transport metal from LME-approved warehouses to warehouses outside the LME system to meet their own needs or objectives.

The idea here is that at the behest of tenants, the company is moving the metal from the more expensive LME space to cheaper non-LME space, also owned by Goldman.

In an interview, Goldman spokesman Michael DuVally adds that the three forklift drivers quoted by name in the Times story discussing moving metal from warehouse to warehouse all worked for the company for less than two and half months, “so it’s possible that they didn’t understand what was going on.”

Now, the paper’s main point was about the shipping slowdown generally, that it was part of a deliberate strategy. But the Times does imply, even if it doesn’t state outright, that the metal shuffling was a way to hew to the strategy while narrowly complying with industry rules.

On the other hand, it’s possible that the workers knew quite well what was going on and that the Times’s unnamed sources confirming the general idea did, too. The possibility that the Goldman unit moved metal on its own, absent tenant orders, and that some made its way from one LME warehouse to another, is far from foreclosed.

As for what it was doing in the physical commodities business in the first place, the regulatory exceptions that allowed it, and the wider questions of the soundness and fairness of a financial institutions controlling the movement of a sizable share of a market in which it trades, the Goldman release is silent.


Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.