In a free market, prices are established by the aggregate demand for a good, in consideration of its supply. No one producer or consumer has the ability to “fix” prices, and every participant in the market works to incrementally affect the price based on his contributions to either supply or demand.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a free market in silver—or anything else. But silver is perhaps the most government-manipulated commodity in the world. Central banks and Treasuries allowed gold to get out of control before finally putting the emergency brake on at around $1,000, but they’ve had silver in a vice grip for years. The interest these players have in suppressing the price of silver (and gold) is that appreciation in precious metals reveals devaluation of fiat currency. The power of a government is no greater than the value of its debt notes, and thus, gold and silver are public enemies number 1 and 2.
Since silver is so manipulated by governments, this creates the opportunity for private individuals of enormous means to also greatly influence the price. If the market were allowed to find the “true price” of silver, then these wealthy individuals would have less buying power. As it is, governments are subsidizing purchases not only for you, but also for the super rich—and their buck stretches a lot farther. And then, of course, there are the mining CEOs and “silver gurus” who also have a great amount of influence in the world of silver.
In this article, I’ve assembled the twenty names you must know to understand silver. I’ve included politicians, pundits, executives, and investors. It’s hard to say who has the greatest influence or who’s most important, so I’ve listed them alphabetically. Without further ado, here is the list:
Phillip Baker, Jr.
Phillip Baker, Jr. is the President and CEO of Hecla Mining Company, an Idaho-based mining company that produced 8.7 million ounces of gold in 2008 at a cost of $4.20 per ounce. Baker has been with the firm since 2001, and has served in numerous capacities: Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer; and he’s been on the board for his entire tenure. Baker became President in late 2001 and CEO in May, 2003.
Silver Wheaton President and CEO Peter Barnes is also one of the founders of this unique silver company, which doesn’t actually mine silver, but instead buys it via long-term purchase contracts so that its stock serves as a “proxy” for silver bullion. Barnes has been with the company since its inception in 2004. Silver Wheaton sold fifteen million ounces of silver in 2008, nineteen million in 2009, and is expected to sell up to twenty-five million ounces of silver in 2010.
Roque Benavides is the President and CEO of Buenaventura Mining Company—or Compania de Minas Buenaventura as it’s known in its native Peru. He’s been with the company for thirty-two years, and has been CEO since early 2001. Buenaventura is a family affair, with the Benavides family owning 27.5% of its shares. Roque’s eighty-eight-year-old father, Alberto Benavides de la Quintana, is the founder and Chairman of Buenaventura Mining Company.
At last, the first villain on our list. As Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke has perhaps more influence over the silver market—and every other market—than anyone. Since the Fed’s Board of Governors is essentially a rubber-stamp committee for the Chairman’s whims, Bernanke is practically a monetary dictator, with near-absolute control over the reserve currency of the world. As such, he has more incentive to suppress the price of silver and gold than anyone else on planet Earth. The Fed does this by leasing silver that doesn’t exist, and possibly short-selling it as well. No one knows for sure, which is why an audit of this secretive organization is so vital. Then again, ultimately Bernanke and his successors (if the dollar lasts that long) will push the nominal price of silver to new highs via their rampant and inflationary expansion of the money supply.
Even though his wealth took a $40 million hit in 2009, Warren Buffett is still the second-richest man in America, and has the potential to be a huge player in the silver market. He’s already done so in the past: In 1998, Buffett took delivery of 129.7 million ounces of silver from futures contracts. This took the market by surprise, as futures traders are used to settling in cash. The scramble that ensued drove the price of silver from $4.25 to $7.75—an 82.36% surge in just six months! Buffett’s father, Howard H. Buffett, was a hard-money congressman, and while Warren’s politics are decidedly more leftist, it appears that at least some of his dad’s teachings rubbed off on the “Oracle of Omaha.” Buffett has been notoriously bearish on the U.S. dollar, and if he makes another move like he did in ’98, it could send silver skyrocketing into the stratosphere.
Theodore (Ted) Butler
Ted Butler is the silver market’s most notorious muckraker, exposing the shenanigans of concentrated short sellers and lax government regulators. He also offers insightful commentary on the gold and silver markets via a subscription service and dozens of articles available for free online. Theodore Butler is definitely one name you need to know!
Bradford Cooke is Chairman and CEO of Endeavor Silver Corp., a Canada-based exploration and mining company that operates primarily in Mexico. Cooke is a geologist with thirty-two years experience in the mining industry, specializing in the financing, acquisition, exploration and development of mineral deposits. He founded Endeavor in 2003 and successfully raised $200 million (Canadian) to get the company off the ground. Though Endeavor has yet to post an annual profit, it has posted four consecutive years of aggressive silver production and resource growth.
Mr. Dobbs is the President, Chairman, and CEO of Mines Management, Inc., which was rated #1 on our list of best-managed gold and silver companies in the world. Dobbs has vast experience in international finance, investment banking, natural resource financing and as a business development consultant. He founded the Alpha Commodities Fund in 1976, the First American Bank in 1978, and the InterGold Fund in 1996. Additionally, Dobbs writes and lectures on precious metals investing, resource development, and finance.
Terrence Duffy is the Executive Chairman of CME Group, the holding company for the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), which is the world’s largest physical commodities futures exchange. It is suggested by Ted Butler, among others, that much of the silver trading at the NYMEX’s COMEX division (which includes aluminum, copper, gold, and silver) does not actually exist. Duffy, a political crony of George W. Bush, has refused to take any action on this matter.
Israel “Izzy” Friedman
Izzy Friedman is Ted Butler’s mentor and a prolific writer. Friedman’s articles can be found all over the Web, and they not only tout precious metals as a great investment, but make the case that silver is vastly superior to gold. One such article is titled, “Gold for the Pessimist, Silver for the Optimist.” Friedman is also noted for exposing the real shortage in silver that exists and will become all the more apparent in 2010 and beyond.
Gary Gensler is the Chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Corporation (the CFTC), which is charged with regulating over $5 trillion in trades—including all metals trades on the COMEX. Gensler was appointed to his position by Barack Obama, and he previously served as Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton. His inaction in regards to the obvious manipulation of the silver market just goes to show there’s no difference between the political parties and their cronies. Gensler had ties to both Enron and AIG—is that “change” we can believe in?
Jason Hommel is the author of Jason Hommel’s Silver Stock Report, and a major proponent of investing in silver. Hommel himself is said to own more than 200,000 ounces of silver, stashed away in makeshift safes made from discarded refrigerators. He was the first to really do the hard work of identifying and analyzing all silver stocks, most of which are micro-caps trading over-the-counter or as Pink Sheets. His report is available for free.
Hu Jintao is the “Paramount Leader” of the People’s Republic of China, holding such other titles as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, President of the People’s Republic of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. As the undisputed leader of China, his word had more influence than any other, and his government is actively encouraging its citizens to buy gold—and especially silver. What’s more, the Chinese government’s own purchases of gold and silver have the ability to severely affect the market, to say nothing of China’s hold over the U.S. dollar. As a productive creditor nation with a deadbeat dependent (namely the U.S.), China is in a Catch-22: It knows the purchasing power of the interest payments it receives from the trillions of dollars worth of Treasury bonds it holds is rapidly depreciating, but if China makes any sudden move to get out of the U.S. dollar, it stands to lose almost as much as the U.S. But the slow bleeding cannot go on forever, and at some point, China will have to bite the bullet and dump the greenback. When that happens, silver is likely to beat its all-time highs many times over.
Michael Maloney is the proprietor of GoldSilver.com and the author of the wildly popular book, Rich Dad’s Advisors Guide to Investing in Gold and Silver. In addition to being an entrepreneur and author, Maloney is a renowned lecturer, and since 2002, he’s been focusing on gold- and silver-investment education. His YouTube videos are also extremely popular, including one he did with Ron Paul during Paul’s 2008 presidential bid.
MacInnis is President and CEO of MAG Silver Corporation. He has over thirty years experience in worldwide mineral exploration. A significant number of mineral discoveries have been made under MacInnis’s guidance, including gold and base metal deposits in the US, Canada and Mexico. Mr. MacInnis is a Registered Professional Geoscientist.
David Morgan is perhaps the most prominent “silver guru” in the world. He began his investing career at eighteen years of age, and after obtaining degrees in engineering, economics, and finance, set about applying his knowledge of the free market to work researching the economy and especially precious metals. Morgan has long held that silver is the more bullish of the two great precious metals and has been following the silver market on a daily basis for thirty years. He is the proprietor of Silver-Investor.com.
Robert Quartermain is the CEO, President, and Executive Director of Silver Standard Resources, Inc., a $1.6 billion silver company that trades on the Nasdaq Global Market. The company’s strategy is to generate value through the development of its extensive precious metals assets. This year, production at SSRI’s flagship Pirquitas mine in Argentina is expected initiate the firm’s transition to a significant primary silver producer.
When Peter Schiff goes on TV and talks about gold, silver, and the Fed, the establishmentarian pundits still laugh in his face—but nobody laughs at Jim Rogers. Rogers made millions working with George Soros in the Quantum Fund and has been an “adventure capitalist” ever since. He is entirely bearish on the U.S. economy—so much so that he moved to Singapore so his youngest daughters would grow up knowing how to speak Mandarin. Rogers really made a name for himself investing in agricultural commodities, but silver is his #1 pick now. When asked what he would do if he were Ben Bernanke, he said, “I’d abolish the Fed and then resign.”
James Turk runs GoldMoney.com and is one of the featured columnists for Kitco.com. GoldMoney allows people to buy gold, silver, and platinum to protect their wealth, and has a patented an electronic-payment system for sending payments in precious metals. GoldMoney is also affiliated with the gold-mining company IAMGold.
Dennis Wheeler is the Executive Chairman, CEO, President, and Chairman of the Executive Committee for Coeur d`Alene Mines Corporation, a $1.44 billion Idaho-based silver mining company. He’s been Chairman of the Board since 1992 and CEO since 1986. He’s been with the company since the late 1970s and was recently appointed to the Executive Committee of the National Mining Association.