While I do not believe them to be true, sometimes I enjoy watching documentaries about conspiracy theories, where the recurring theme is that a secretive world government has replaced our elected representatives and is ruling the planet through many front organizations and false flag operations. If you're familiar with this matter or have read some of Dan Brown's bestsellers, then the words New World Order, The Illuminati, The Rothschild Family and The Bilderberg Group should ring a bell.
Let's imagine for a moment that all these cloak and dagger stories are true. Let's try then to uncover the companies through which these mysterious societies might operate. Many of them are probably disguised as private equity funds; with billions of dollars at its disposal and some notable people on its payroll, one big name that comes to mind is The Carlyle Group; others, like Ian Fleming's Spectre, lurk in the dark. Yet, if some of them are publicly listed, being one of their shareholders may one day be beneficial in some way; at least it sounds fascinating.
- The Goldman Sachs Group (NYSE:GS): It is the most quoted company when it comes to conspiracy theories, often considered to be the puppet-master of politicians and the base of operations of the freemasonry, to the point that a Chinese financial journalist, Li Delin, has written two books, bestsellers in China, entitled "The Goldman Sachs Conspiracy" and "Eliminate all competitors - How Goldman Sachs wins over the world". American Journalis Matt Taibbi in a 2009 piece, has described it as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
- Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM): With a current market cap of $420B, it is the largest and most powerful among the publicly traded oil&gas majors and is regarded by conspiracy theorists to be an asset in the hands of the elusive fellowships. Not only because it is one of the big guys in a business sector of paramount importance but also because its retired CEO Lee R. Raymond, who has been a top executive in the company from 1984 to 2005, was a member of the Trilateral Commission, officially an economic cooperation between the United States, Japan and Europe, but believed by many to be a secretive organization whose goal is to create a system of world currency and world governance.
- Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD): There is a conspiracy theory about gold; the thesis is that huge amounts of gold have been borrowed on the carry trade by many financial institutions that keep manipulating the price of the precious metal in order to make a profit out of their short and long positions. Others claim the price of gold is artificially kept down because a sudden rise in prices would wipe out a lot of investment banks unable to cover their short positions; a fate similar to that suffered by LTCM L.P. Evidence of manipulation has been published by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, that shows that especially in the fourth quarter of 2008, U.S. banks, led by J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) - said to hold 80% of the gold derivatives in the world - liquidated more than $20 billion of gold, a record breaking trade that has raised a few eyebrows. Those that believe that gold prices will eventually skyrocket should keep an eye on Barrick Gold ABX, the largest gold mining company publicly traded.
- The Rothschilds: the Rothschild family has often been the subject of conspiracy theories that claim they are members of the Illuminati, especially after Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a german banker, allegedly said: "Give me control over a nation's currency and I don't care who makes the laws". Some public companies are said to be directly associated with the Rothschilds. Rio Tinto plc (RIO), a global mining group, in the late 19th century was controlled by the family, that to this day retains some interest in the company. The market cap is $108B. St. James's Place plc (OTCPK:STJPF - originally founded in 1991 as J. Rothschild Assurance Group, is a UK-based wealth management firm. A FTSE 250 company, it is listed on the London Stock Exchange; American investors can also buy it on the Pink Sheets. The market cap is $2.5B. Paris-Orleans S.A. (OTCPK:PIEJF: It was founded in 1838 in Paris, France, as a railway company; after World War II the French branch of the Rothschild family took it over and transformed it into a holding company which is currently engaged in banking activities and private equity investments. The market cap is $600 million and is listed on the Euronext exchange, but it can also be bought on the Pink Sheets, where it is thinly traded. Glencore International plc (GLCNF.PK): founded in 1974 and headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, is the world's largest commodities trader. It controls 50 per cent of the global copper market, 60 per cent of zinc, 38 per cent in alumina, 28 per cent of thermal coal, 45 per cent of lead and almost 10 per cent of the world's wheat, and has often been criticized for its involvement in questionable deals. In January 2010, Nathaniel Philip Rothschild bought $40 million of Glencore convertible bonds. Listed in London and Hong Kong, is also available on the Pink Sheets. The market cap is $46B.
- The Bilderberg Group is an unofficial, annual meeting of about 130 guests, many of which are influential people in the fields of politics, finance and industry. Since these meetings are by invitation only and privacy of the participants is a main concern, conspiracy theories about imposition of a world government or capitalist domination have been circulating since the first meeting took place in 1954. The Bilderbergers have often been called "the shadow government". Among the 2011 participants, worthy of notice are: Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) - Klaus Kleinfeld, CEO of Alcoa (NYSE:AA) - Henry R. Kravis, Chairman and CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (NYSE:KKR) - Jorma Ollila, Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) - Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Eni (NYSE:E) - Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) - Daniel Lucius Vasella, Chairman of Novartis (NYSE:NVS). The full list is available here.
Disclosure: I am long E.