Since I first started visiting dinar forums one thing that has bothered me is the fact that most of the “experts” on this investment have a background in something other than finance, economics, or investment analysis. Many of them come from the world of MLM, selling products like Xango or Fuel Legacy. Some are former military personnel. Some work as contractors or in the oil business. One guy was a corporate recruiter. Another worked in the restaurant business. One guy was even a snake breeder. Not exactly what I was looking for.
Well I found one man who has discussed the dinar at length who is indeed qualified to discuss this investment, but some of you probably won’t like what he has to say. His name is John Jagerson. He runs a website called Learning Markets, and his videos were included on one of the first posts I did back in September. Recently he commented on my blog which frankly surprised me. I replied and invited him to participate in a brief discussion for my readers which he agreed to do. I may not agree with John on everything, but I respect his credentials and his opinions and welcome his thoughts on investing in the IQD.
Sam: I appreciate your taking the time to answer a few questions for us. Could you give us a brief bio with your credentials?
John: I graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in Business Administration where I emphasized in accounting and finance. I later completed the PLD at Harvard that has a strong international business focus. I have spent most of my career as an entrepreneur, which led me in two directions that eventually converged to form my current occupation. The first direction was to become involved in private equity (AKA venture and angel capital), which gave me experience in investment and risk analysis. The second was my experience (early in my career) importing products and equipment from Asia. While I was doing that I was frequently hedging currency risk and the currency-trading bug bit me. I haven’t turned back.
In 2003 I left entrepreneurship briefly and went to work with Investools, which was a roll-up of several online companies focused on investor education and information. Investools later acquired the options-brokerage thinkorswim (Barrons’ #1 rated), which was later acquired by TDAmeritrade after I left the company. I was a Vice President at the firm and was responsible for content, training, and client education. Working at thinkorswim Group I had the opportunity to get to know how individual investors work. This gave me a lot of insight into the biggest mistakes they make as well as the commonalities among successful traders.
For a brief period I was also a principle for a small CTA (NFA registered) focusing on forex trading, but left the industry when regulation changes in the U.S. pushed so many domestic traders overseas. I currently still write two option advisory letters that have done well. I ended 2011 profitably, which is “pretty good” in my book even if I didn’t blow the doors off.
I have written three books published by McGraw Hill. Two of these were about the international currency market or “Forex”. The third is on gold investing. I am currently writing a book on the coming (in my opinion) bond market collapse. I regularly write and record videos for online publications including Nasdaq.com, Scottrade, International Stock Exchange (ISE), LearningMarkets.com, Mint (an Intuit company) and Alpari among others.
OK that was not brief and I apologize for that but I thought it would be helpful to make sure that people wondering about the dinar know that I am not just speculating. I have experience in this business and I can show them how to find real information for themselves.
Sam: That’s quite all right. Have you reported on other redenominations that were pumped as big profit opportunities?
John: Yes and no. I have reported on RVs and RDs in the past, but the dinar is an unusual situation that is being pumped unlike anything I have seen before. Everyone in the business knows that RVs and RDs are virtually impossible to trade so pumping would have just been seen as nonsense. The IQD RV is being pumped successfully because they are using it to scam non-professionals who don’t know how the currency market works.
I was “introduced” to the dinar RV by a friend who asked me what I thought. I told him RVs don’t work that way and that it sounded like a “rain maker” scam, but he invested anyway. I did a little investigation into how this scam was working and starting writing about it in 2008. I felt like this was a good thing to take a stand on since so many service men and women are being taken advantage of by the scammers.
I have written about other redenominations (Turkey, Mexico, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Germany, Japan, China, Kuwait, Iraq, and Vietnam) and revaluations (China, Japan & Switzerland). Both redominations and revaluations happen but none of them have or could work like dinar-RV investors think. – I have also written about other investor scams like advance-fee frauds, target date funds, HYIPs, and mail-order bullion dealers.
Sam: I’m sure a lot of my readers are saying “how can you call the dinar a scam? I bought dinar at BOA or Chase”. How do you respond?
John: It is legal to exchange currencies with a service bureau or a bank in the U.S. There are still a few that will even exchange the dinar. However, that is not the same as advising that this is a “good investment opportunity.” That is the scam. The currency is just paper issued by the Iraqi government.
Sam: You say the IQD hasn’t revalued since 2003, but many investors will tell you that they have doubled their money since they purchased.
John: A real RV is the result of intentional action by the central bank. Most currencies fluctuate in value over time without any interference from the bank. It is definitely possible to have bought the dinar at some point over the last few years and to be in a profitable position right now but that was not the result of an intentional RV. The real question is whether the dinar can continue to appreciate versus the dollar now?
Whenever I hear this I get pretty skeptical though. Where is the proof? There are plenty of folks who can show they bought between 1500 and 1100 to the dollar, which is where the official rate has ranged since the new series was issued, but counting costs and spread that is a far cry from a money-doubler. There was a VERY brief period in 2003 when the dinar was exchanged at over 1900 to the dollar, but I have yet to see anyone prove that they bought during those few months. Keep in mind that these aren’t my numbers. These are from the Central Bank of Iraq. I always tell people to go look it up themselves and make sure they are getting their information from the source rather than a pumper.
Sam: Can you tell us definitively how the Kuwaiti dinar redenomination unfolded?
John: Stage one – Fall 1990
Iraq invades and replaces the Kuwaiti dinar with the Iraqi dinar as the “official” currency. The Kuwaiti government was essentially in exile. However, because of the way currencies were managed in the early 1990’s the official rate for the KWD never changed. The UN condemned the invasion and no one of any consequence recognized the right of Iraq to replace the government and currency of Kuwait. There are many anecdotes floating around that you could have bought the KWD for a fraction of its original value on the black-market for a few weeks during that period but I don’t know of anyone brave enough to come forward and admit (and prove) that they did it.
Stage two – Winter 1991
The U.S. led invasion and liberation of Kuwait was chaotic to say the least for money supply in Kuwait. I have again heard anecdotes of people being able to buy KWD on the black market during this period but the official exchange rate was still the same. The old Kuwaiti government was restored following the withdrawal of Iraqi troops. This is really important => Unlike Iraq, the same government, currency, central bank, money, and civil system was in place before and immediately after the Iraqi invasion.
Stage three – September 1991
The KWD was redenominated with new bills in 1991. This means that the old bills held by the public were exchanged for new bills. Sometimes redenominations are done at a ratio (referred to as “lopping”) but this one was 1:1 straight across. Theoretically it is possible (this is a big “if”) for some investors who had bought KWD on the black market during the occupation to have made a big return but there are no known institutional investors who have admitted engaging in that activity and I suspect that the few people who did it are keeping quiet since war-profiteering is generally an unpopular if not illegal thing to do.
KWD Exchange rates
The KWD has been pegged to a basket of currencies (dominated by the dollar) or the dollar itself since 1975. Since the mid-1980s when the dollar was released to float more freely the KWD has had an exchange rate that has ranged between $2.78 and $3.10. This includes the period of the Iraqi invasion and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s.
The bottom line is that if you had 1,000KWD worth $3,000 before the invasion you still had 1,000 new KWD after 1991 that was still worth about $3,000 assuming you were able to exchange your hard currency. No one profited from the invasion.
Sam: What about the claims that some people made a fortune on the KWD?
John: As I mentioned above I have heard rumors and stories about profits being made by people who were buying KWD for a few weeks on the black market in the fall and winter of 1990, but where is the proof? There is none. In any case, these stories don’t help the hopes for the Iraqi RV because the same money and government existed before and after a 6 month war in Kuwait, which is why it is even theoretically possible to have made some profits. The only thing the Iraqi dinar has in common with the pre-1990 IQD is the name. Everything else has been changed. The government, central bank, and quantity of money supply has been changed since the invasion.
Sam: Did any currency dealers profit from the Kuwaiti dinar?
John: Theoretically it was possible to profit from the KWD if you had purchased it on the black market during the Iraqi invasion. There was a brief window of time that it was possible. However, it’s a lot like saying “oh I knew Apple was going to come back so I bought it at the absolute lowest price and sold it at the highest.” That sounds great but where is the proof? Even if he did its still moot. The KWD was the same thing with the same government backing it before and after the invasion. You can pull the historical exchange rate right from the central bank’s website. The IQD is a different currency, different government backing it, different supply, etc, etc.
Sam: If a dinar guru claims that he profited from the Kuwaiti dinar would you say he’s lying? Adam Montana for example made such a claim in a book he wrote.
John: Yes, but can I prove it? No, but I can’t prove he doesn’t have magic beans either. It seems extremely unlikely that he was present in Kuwait and prescient enough to buy the KWD on the street when it was available before the Americans went in. If he did it then it should be easy to prove.
Sam: To your knowledge, what is the most substantial RV in history?
John: In absolute value terms the most significant RV in history was the RV of the Chinese Yuan in 2005 that is still ongoing. The exchange rate has actually moved in favor of the yuan 31%. However, there are slim pickings for this kind of RV. Usually an RV is done to lower your currency’s value. The Bank of Japan does this periodically by budging its exchange rate down by a few percentage points that usually evaporates within a few weeks. The Swiss National Bank did it last year when they pegged to the Euro but the change was just a few percentages then as well.
The IQD has fluctuated but has not been revalued since it was reissued in 2004. The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) has been raising interest rates to head off inflation which probably helped protect its official peg of 1170 to the U.S. dollar. However last year, inflation started getting away from them and the unofficial exchange rate (as reported by the CBI) is now about 1200 to the dollar.
Sam: Have investors ever managed to make a profit off of a redenomination?
John: Its pretty tough, but it is possible. The problem is usually one of liquidity because it is really difficult to buy and sell most of these currencies that go through a redenomination. If you want to do it, the most reliable way to make money from a redenomination is to short the currency. The vast majority of redenominations lead to a currency that continues to fall. You would have made money shorting the TRY in 2005 or the MXN in 1995, which were both trading actively in the forex at the time. This problem is that this is exactly the opposite of what IQD buyers are waiting for. They believe the IQD will go up after an RD, which has pretty much never happened.
If you are wondering about making money from the actual “redenomination” process then the answer is no. A redenomination does not affect the total value of the currency. If you had 120,000 IQD that are currently worth $100USD (1,200 USD/IQD) and the dinar remonetizes tomorrow by dropping three zeroes to a new exchange rate of 1.2 IQD to the dollar then you are flat. You would have to exchange your 120,000 dinar for 120 new dinar, which are worth $.833333 each or $120 in total. A redenomination results in the same aggregate value. Outside of the costs incurred in the transaction there are no gains or losses.
Sam: Is it possible that the US Treasury will take our dinar and use them for oil credits? This is a common claim made to explain how the RV process will work.
John: I don’t know why they would. The Treasury has FX reserves but not in any amount that would put a dent in oil imports from Iraq in the far future. Besides that, why would spending (injecting more dinar) into the world market drive its value up? Increasing supply drives prices down not up. Secondly – and this is really important – Oil is priced in U.S. dollars and most exporters sterilize their capital flows to prevent becoming dollarized or to head off inflation and some kind of massive reserve of the dinar would make that very difficult. The last thing I always ask when this question comes up is how do they know that the Treasury has some massive dinar reserve? Where did that data come from? It didn’t come from the Treasury. Like most of these rumors and “facts” it was just made up by the scammers.
Sam: Can fractional reserve banking allow investors to cash in $2 trillion or more?
John: Not without creating a significant shift in the value of the U.S. dollar. Money supply is measured in different ways but one of these – M1, which is a measure of liquid dollars and deposits in the economy – is just over $2 Trillion now. So you would basically be doubling the liquid dollars in the market. Can a fractional system absorb that from a practical perspective? No.
Sam: Would you be willing to debate Kaperoni, Frank Villa, Medic, Breitling … etc. on this?
John: Yes, in person or in writing. Anytime.