An attorney recollects his participation in a civil trial that resulted from a catastrophic meltdown of the global silver market in this debut book.
In 1979, Nelson Bunker Hunt, an “infamous Texas oil tycoon,” concocted a plan as audacious as it was illegal. He organized a massive purchase of the world’s silver supply in order to manipulate the price for his own financial aggrandizement. In concert with a crowd of Arab investors that came to be known as the “Conti group,” which included the brother-in-law of the Saudi crown prince, Hunt and his cohorts bought more than 75 percent of the world’s silver supply, forcing prices to skyrocket astronomically. But when the bubble he created burst, the ensuing damage was vast, compelling Paul Volcker, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, to orchestrate a colossal bailout to forestall an economic collapse. Cymrot was the lead attorney that represented Minpeco SA, the “exclusive agent for Peru’s mineral sales abroad,” in a civil suit against Hunt. As a result of Hunt’s illicit dealings, the company lost $80 million in 10 days. The author lucidly recounts a complex but gripping tale largely through the examination and cross-examination of Hunt, who claimed he was an “ordinary kind of guy.” He was presented by his lawyer as the “victim” of global events beyond his control. Cymrot, a hard-nosed attorney who formerly worked for the Justice Department and “preferred facts to folksy stories,” depicted Hunt’s gambit as an “assault on world silver supplies.” The author’s remembrance is astonishingly detailed, a vivid chronicle of a trial that turned out to be of historical and economic significance. The financial particulars can be hyper-technical for those unfamiliar with the labyrinthine machinations of the metals markets, but Cymrot gracefully manages to render clear the naturally convoluted. This is more than a trial transcript—the author ably transforms the facts into a real story, a novelistic depiction of extraordinary fiscal subterfuge. Cymrot has produced something rare—a genuinely thrilling financial drama.
A captivating economic tale, both riveting and historically enlightening.
– Kirkus Review
“Squeezing Silver takes the reader inside the courtroom of a headline-grabbing trial. In 1988, a jury awarded Minpeco S.A. $197 million from Texas oil billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt and Saudi royalty for conspiring to squeeze silver prices. When silver prices spiked from $9 to $51, Bunker and his cohorts pocketed billions while thousands were cheated. Regulators conflicted by their dealings with Bunker failed to stop his “broad daylight conspiracy.” When silver prices crashed, the Hunt defaults threatened the US economy with collapse, saved only by a controversial too-big-to-fail bailout. The book tells how it happen with never-before reported details.
“A fascinating view inside what was perhaps our first modern financial meltdown. Mark Cymrot’s meticulous account reads like a legal thriller – complete with larger than life characters, secret liaisons, and all the machinations we have come to expect from powerful defendants. In the end, there was justice, of a particular yet meaningful American sort. Could this still happen today?”
Simon H. Johnson, Chief Economist, International Monetary Fund (2007-08), Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics.
“In Squeezing Silver, Mark Cymrot depicts his intense confrontation as a young lawyer with three legal titans in the midst of a historic trial. Having known these four fine lawyers, I know Mark’s descriptions are realistic and perceptive. The story is exciting, and Mark’s insights about a remarkable courtroom battle are uniquely revealing.”
Michael D. Hess, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York (1998-2001), founding partner of Giuliani Partners LLC, and an experienced trial lawyer.
“Whenever I look back on my career, I realize how fortunate I was to work under the leadership of Mark Cymrot in the landmark silver lawsuit. In Squeezing Silver, Mark shows you why.”
Pedro R. Pierluisi, Member of Congress (PR, 2009-16) and Attorney General of Puerto Rico (1993-96).
“Squeezing Silver is a major reference for those who want to bring about justice through the courts. This captivating book explains Mark’s outstanding legal work for Minpeco. In our later work together, we recovered millions of dollars for Peru due to his extraordinary skills as a litigator.”
Jose Ugaz, Chairman, Transparency International (2014-16), Ad-Hoc Prosecutor of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori (2002-02), and partner in Benites, Vargas & Ugaz in Lima.
“I read it with great interest. It was exciting to read even though I knew the outcome!”
Arthur H. Patterson, Ph.D., DecisionQuest
“With vivid descriptions of characters and events, attorney Mark Cymrot brings alive crucial moments and memorable tensions in the 1988 trial that unveiled one of America’s most colorful and creative financial deceptions: the 1979-1980 scheme to rig the world silver market. In his nonfiction legal thriller, Mr. Cymrot deftly tells the story of how three sons of Texas wildcatter H.L. Hunt conspired with two Arab sheiks and others, meeting at thoroughbred horse racing events and luxury hotels worldwide, in a plot to hoard silver bullion. In so doing, Mr. Cymrot brings an immensely complex and intriguing civil case to the general reader, in the same way that he and his team of young trial lawyers unraveled the components of the conspiracy with such stunning clarity that the jurors could easily comprehend the details and the extent of the wrongdoing.
It’s a fast read; it’s also timeless, as this excerpt from Mr. Cymrot’s opening argument shows: “We are talking about a group of privileged men who used their power and influence to push up the price of silver illegally. We will show that they did this using their incredible fortunes with an utter contempt for the very legal economic systems that were so very good to them.”
Ann Hagedorn, Staff reporter who covered trial, Wall Street Journal
“I finished Squeezing Silver…. Aside from scaring the bejesus out of me regarding the upcoming trial on which I will be a witness, I thought it was a fun read. A very technical topic that Mark was able to make narrative. At the very end, his discussion of how the losses threatened the banking system conjured up long forgotten memories of the bad ole days of Glass Steagall and the McFadden Act. I gave it five stars on “Good Reads”!
Charles Marc Abbey, Partner, Accenture
“I suspect a common theme among the Minpeco team Members to your book is a very big THANK YOU for telling such an entertaining and compelling story and making all of our work come alive again after a thirty year break. You took me back to the way I felt in buying the editions of the NY Times late Saturday night as they hit the streets with the news of the Jury Verdict. You have made me (and am sure all of us) feel very proud again to be part of such a great time and under your wonderful leadership. I loved the book.”
Scott D. Andersen, Partner, Sidley Austin LLP