It doesn’t take much to get investors excited. In the case of Gold Fields, the leading South African miner, all that was required was a three-page email and a gullible journalist. A report on Bloomberg that one Edward Pastorini was planning to organize a $12.5 billion (Rs53,750 crore) offer in a few months was enough to push the share price up by 11%. But no Pastorini seems to exist. The shares have dropped back, although not quite all the way to pre-hoax levels.
Bloomberg said that Pastorini “doesn’t publicize his business activities”. That was something of an understatement; his name did not appear in any news reports or come up on any search engines. If the level of anonymity didn’t raise some doubts, then the emailed plan should have. It suggested that rumours of a bid could lead to the shares becoming overpriced “for a number of months”.
Well, hours, as it turns out, but probably enough time for whoever is behind the Pastorini name to have made a good turn.
The motivations of most of the actors in this brief drama are easy to explain. Journalists like scoops, investors like deals, and conmen like making money. But one question stands out. Why choose the name “Edward Pastorini”? Puzzle-lovers can point out that the letters are an anagram for “Top Insider Award”.
But there is a more poetic interpretation. “Edward” means “guardian of wealth” and Pastorini can roughly be translated as “little shepherd”. So perhaps the assumed name—guardian-shepherd—is ironic. The poet John Milton explained what happens if the shepherds fail: “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed, But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw, Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread.”
And there is always some bad shepherd to profit from a bit of foul contagion among sheep-like investors.