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Synthetic cows: How not to cover your trading losses

The curious case of the cows that didn’t exist.

Photo: iStock

Here’s one way to do the cattle business. You buy some small cows, feed them until they are big cows, then kill them and sell the meat.

Here’s another way. You get paid by someone else who wants to kill the cows and sell the meat but doesn’t want the hassle of buying and feeding them. You do that bit for them, billing them along the way for the cows and the food, and then there is a mechanism for you either getting a profit or taking a loss when the meat is finally sold.

Or then again a less conventional way to do it would be to spend a few years billing other people about $244 million and saying you were buying and feeding 265,000 cows with it, but then actually doing other stuff with it, like covering maybe $200 million of live cattle futures trading losses at the CME and also buying a plane. This is a bit like the other ways, but without the cows.


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