Conspiracy Watch: The Wisest Guys in the Room

Did the Mafia kneecap Wall Street?

Illustration: Peter Hoey

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the conspiracy: In the 1970s the Mafia started laundering its dirty money on Wall Street. With the help of unscrupulous hedge fund managers, the Mob gutted companies whose stock it had sold short, making a killing—the high-finance equivalent of taking out an insurance policy on a grocery store and then torching it. This “financial heist of monstrous proportions” eventually got so big that it triggered last October’s stock market collapse.

the conspiracy theorists: In 2007 Patrick Byrne, ceo of Overstock.com, launched DeepCapture.com to expose “a scandal that may make Enron look like an afternoon tea.” The site recently posted a nearly 40,000-word treatise exposing the alleged conspirators, who go beyond mafiosi to include former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, Mad Money host Jim Cramer, and Wikipedia, which has rubbed out entries that reveal details of the scheme. DeepCapture readers can support Byrne’s “investigative reporting” by shopping on Overstock. And he’s offered a whopping $75,000 to those who can “Crack the Wall Street Cover-Up.”

meanwhile, back on earth: Byrne is part of multiple lawsuits charging that naked short selling—investors selling stocks they didn’t own or intend to buy—cut into Overstock’s share price. Naked short selling didn’t affect only Overstock, and while it didn’t help the ailing economy, it probably didn’t kill it. (Regardless, the sec banned it in September. Byrne’s response: “There. Was that so hard?”) And that stuff about the Mafia whacking the world financial system? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Kookiness Rating: tin foil hattin foil hattin foil hattin foil hat (1=maybe they’re on to something, 5=break out the tinfoil hat!)

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