Hillary Clinton's Windfall Detailed She Played The Risky Cattle-futures Market In 1978-79. Her $1,000 Initial Investment Grew To Almost $100,000.

Posted: March 30, 1994

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton parlayed $1,000 into nearly $100,000 through highly speculative commodities trading in 1978 and 1979, according to records released by the White House yesterday.

She was guided through the risky trades by James B. Blair, a friend who was a lawyer for Tyson Foods Inc., the nation's biggest poultry company and one of Arkansas' largest employers.

The disclosure that a $1,000 investment yielded a 100-fold return carried some irony, in light of the Clintons' sharp criticism of the Reagan-Bush years as "a gilded age of greed and selfishness, of irresponsibility and excess and of neglect."

Those were President Clinton's words during the 1992 campaign.

Commodities trading is much riskier than most investing in stocks. Essentially, a commodities speculator is trying to outguess the next move of the volatile commodities market, where prices can soar or plummet in a day, or an hour.

Such trading is among the riskiest of investments. By some estimates, more than three-quarters of all commodities investors lose money. But a skilled trader, or one with special knowledge of a market, can reap millions of


"Making the kind of money that she did at that time was possible but very difficult," said Chuck Levitt, senior livestock analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. "It just so happened that she caught the biggest cattle- market boom in history and at just the right time."

Herds had shrunk for four years and inflation was rampant in 1978-79, explained Levitt, who has tracked livestock markets for more than 30 years. Prices on virtually all commodities were "in a very strong upward trend."

"There were other people who made the money she did," said Levitt, but they were lucky and their timing was perfect. As a new player, he added, "she had to have one heck of a good adviser or one very good broker."

The disclosure of Hillary Clinton's trading came amid reports that her former broker, Robert L. "Red" Bone of Springdale, Ark., was disciplined for trading violations twice - in 1977 by the Commodities Futures Trading

Commission and in 1980 by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Bone often traded without orders or permission from his clients, and "at the end of the day the winning and losing trades would be allocated to the accounts selected by Bone," reported Securities Week, a McGraw-Hill newsletter focusing on securities and futures.

In January 1980, a committee of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange banned Bone

from trading on the exchange for three years, Securities Week reported. Bone consented to the sanctions without admitting or denying charges that he had committed "serious and repeated violations of recordkeeping functions, order entry procedures, margin requirements and hedge procedures."

According to Securities Week, Bone's violations all involved the cattle futures market in which Hillary Clinton made her profits and occurred at about the time she was investing.

A senior administration official said yesterday: "She did not know at that time that he ever had been suspended."

Bone, a former Tyson employee, was broker for both Blair and Hillary Clinton; Blair was Bone's personal lawyer, Securities Week reported.

Blair, who has since become general counsel for Tyson Foods, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a Wall Street Journal article published yesterday, Blair denied allegations that Hillary Clinton benefited from allocation of profitable trades to her account, while losing cattle trades were dumped in other investors' accounts.

"It couldn't have happened" in Clinton's case, Blair told the Wall Street Journal. "She'd take a position. She'd get a confirmation, and she'd close it out, maybe when I advised her (to do so), maybe not."

The White House released the commodities-trading information in part to rebut charges in the April 4 issue of Newsweek magazine, currently on sale, that Hillary Clinton did not put up any money herself. The White House strongly denied that accusation, and Newsweek has backed off its story.

"We wanted to set the record straight and get the facts out," a senior administration official said.

Hillary Clinton, who is on vacation with her family in California, was not present for the briefing. Her press secretary, Lisa Caputo, and John Podesta, a White House spokesman, said Hillary Clinton "put up her own money, invested it in her own accounts, and assumed the full risk of loss."

The highly speculative trading dramatically boosted the Clintons' income at a time when he was earning $26,500 as Arkansas attorney general and she was making $24,250 as a lawyer in Little Rock. It was shortly before her husband was elected governor in 1978.

Hillary Clinton invested $1,000 in cash on Oct. 1, 1978. By Oct. 12, she had made $5,300, and reinvested the $6,300 in several transactions. In a series of trades through the rest of 1978, she accumulated profits of $49,069, offset by losses of $22,548. The White House calculated her net gain at $26,521 in 1978.

In 1979, she continued trading, with profits of about $109,600, offset by losses of about $36,600. Her net gain for the first six months of 1979 was $72,996, the White House said. She stopped trading in that account in July, after she got pregnant with Chelsea.

"She couldn't stomach it anymore," an administration official said. "It was too nerve-wracking."

The combined net gain for 1978 and 1979 - nine months of actual trading - was $99,537.

An administration official said that then-Gov. Clinton was "not involved in this account. This was her account. It was in her name."

Hillary Clinton opened a second account in October 1979 with $5,000 in cash, but her trading in that account resulted in small net losses in 1979 and 1980. She stopped trading in that account after Chelsea was born; the account was closed in March 1980.

The New York Times first revealed Hillary Clinton's commodities trading in a March 18 story that said the deals left the Clintons in the position of having relied on the financial advice of Blair, who at the time, and thereafter, represented one of the largest companies in the state.

"I think he was an important factor," an administration official said yesterday. But the official also noted: "It was a good market."

Hillary Clinton's trades were on cattle, hogs, soybeans, sugar, copper and lumber futures, senior administration officials said.

The Times' story said that Tyson Foods, of Springdale, Ark., received $9 million in government loans, favorable environmental decisions and placement of company executives on state boards during Bill Clinton's tenure as governor. Clinton has said he treated the firm with only the consideration due the state's top industry.

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