On April 6th, 2015, Reuters reported that a London hedge fund created a computer bot to read 100 million tweets a week and determine whether they had a positive or negative outlook on the world. If the overall sentiment was positive, the fund would buy stocks, if it was negative, it would bet on stocks going down. The idea was terrible, and according to Fortune magazine, the fund crashed and burned within two years. The experiment begs a question. Is it possible to predict the markets? Is market investing straight up luck, or is there skill involved? Today we’ll find out, in this episode of The Infographics Show – People who lost millions (or billions) in seconds.
Almost everybody has a complicated relationship with cash. It’s the number 1 reason for divorce in the early stages of marriage, and the number 1 stress motivator for most people. Money troubles can lead to mental health problems, such as depression, and physical problems, such as stress and heart conditions. Psychologists have identified several types of money disorders and behaviors, including Money Avoidance Disorders (under-spending and risk avoidance), Financial Denial (avoiding looking at the bank statement), Financial Rejection (feeling guilt when in receipt of money), Hoarding (hiding and accumulating money), and the self-explanatory Money-worshipping-Disorder.
Those who suffer from the latter disorder often experience Financial Flashpoints, painful and distressing life events involving cash. These often dramatic fiscal life events become the foundation of our financial struggles. And this is what we will be looking at today – people who have lost large sums of money in a very short space of time.
Perhaps the most natural environment to observe folks who appear driven to lose all their cash is in the casino. Between 1992 and 1995, Archie Karas went on one of the longest winning streaks in gambling history when he turned $50 into a staggering $40 million playing high stakes poker. But Archie, in his race to fortune and fame, forgot the old adage about quitting while you’re ahead, and kept on playing, hungry to win it all, until he promptly lost it all in a matter of days. He would go on to see millions disappear in minutes before his very eyes at the blackjack table.
Not to be out done, Terry Watanabe fluttered the chunky sum of $205 million in under a year on the Las Vegas strip. He would often lose $5 million a day playing multiple $50,000 blackjack hands. One Australian gambler, Harry Kakavas, lost over $1.5 billion playing blackjack and baccarat. He spent almost the entire amount at the Crown Casino on Australia’s Gold Coast. Kakavas subsequently took his favorite gambling venue to court, claiming the casino did not try to stop his reckless gambling. He lost the case in 2013, and was held entirely responsible for his own actions. .
If personal losses are heavy in the casino, how does the heavy, multi-faceted financial corporate world compare? Li Hejun, the chairman of Henergy Thin Power Film Group, found himself losing a hefty sum of $14 billion in 30 minutes, and he may have avoided it by simply showing up to a meeting. During the first quarter of 2015, Henergy was up 42% on the Hong Kong stock exchange, reaching a high of $40 billion. Disaster struck on the 20th of May when, in 30 minutes, stock tumbled by 47%.
Hejun, as CEO, was heavily committed to the stock, and lost at least 14 billion dollars during those final minutes before the exchange closed. Why did the stock crash? Nobody is quite sure, but some speculated that Hejun himself is responsible for not showing up at the annual shareholders meeting and thus sending out a negative vibe to new trading connections. If this was the case, Li Hejun surely must be kicking himself for not stepping into that particular meeting and sinking $14 billion into the hole.
Joel Ifergan from Quebec narrowly missed out on a $2.4 million lottery jackpot because his winning ticket was printed out seven seconds too late. Ifergan took the case to court where the judge dismissed the unlucky punter, even though Ifergan was only claiming half the winnings. Here’s what happened. He bought two Super 7 lottery tickets at 8.59pm for the May 23rd, 2008 jackpot. While one ticket printed out before the clock struck the 9.00pm deadline, the other ticket, the one that won the jackpot, printed out just after the 9.00pm deadline. After spending years on the case and racking up at least $80,000 in legal fees, Ifergan told reporters that, “Yes, it cost me a lot of money, but it also consumed me for seven years.”
Some of the most volatile fluctuations in recent history have been observed in the relatively new crypto currency markets. In the last quarter of 2017, Bitcoin reached a high of almost $20,000, only to slump again by 30% at the end of the year. It has continued dropping at an alarming rate in the first quarter of 2018, reaching a low of $7,000 in April.
Harvard educated Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss, dubbed the Bitcoin twins, would have felt a hit towards the end of 2017. The New York Times estimated their worth to be $1.3 billion. The pair bought 1 percent of all Bitcoins, that’s 120,000 coins in 2012, when one coin cost less than $10. Those coins would have been worth $3.6 billion last year, but now only $840 million. In April of 2013, Bitcoin dropped 71% overnight, tumbling from $233 to $67, meaning the twins would have lost $20 million in a matter of hours and minutes, while tucked away in their respective beds. Despite the coin’s volatility, the twins are firm believers in the technology, and have held on through thick and thin, a tactic that has thus far served them very well.