The Death of a Market

InTrade has stopped doing business. What does this mean?

InTrade is either an online betting site, or futures site, or predictive market site—depending on your priors—that allowed participants to take small positions on political futures, weather futures, and other obscure items. They abruptly shut down their site on Sunday. In November, the US Commodities Futures Trading Commission compelled the Irish company to close its site to Americans, because they were offering betting contracts on gold and oil.

The results were predictable: trading volume fell off a cliff. The CFTC later reversed itself, but the damage was done. On their website the company cites financial irregularities, and a lot of people are speculating that InTrade’s segregated accounts got co-mingled with company funds. After all, revenues were falling, all that money was just sitting there. Who would be looking? This is partially what happened at MF Global.

Which raises a good question: whenever a new financial instrument requires you to write a check and send it off, it’s a good idea to ask, who’s checking them out? If you don’t like the answer, don’t send the money.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Chief Investment Officer

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