10 Of The Biggest Scams Ever In History
Since the time people started using money, there have been numerous cases of scams and frauds. History shows that scammers are expert in preying on people’s gullibility. But even after stealing millions, the future for these people does not bode well, and usually, their frauds are exposed. In this article, we have collected the 10 biggest scams in history which left the investors penniless and sometimes even destroyed entire economies.
1. In 1996, a Canadian mining company, Bre-X, announced a huge discovery of gold, and in the process went from a penny stock to $280 per share, with a total value of $4 billion. In reality, it was all a fraud and the lead geologist was shaving off gold from his wedding band to add to drill-core samples.
During the late 1990s, geologist John Felderhof believed that a property near the Busang River in Indonesia would produce gold after mining. At his advice, David Walsh, the founder of Bre-X Minerals Ltd., bought the property. The project manager of the gold mining project was Filipino geologist Michael deGuzman. When deGuzman tested the initial samples, he didn’t find any trace of gold, so he shaved off some gold from his wedding band, added it to the samples, and declared the first estimate of the total find to be about 62 metric tons.
The news of the presence of gold in Bre-X’s property soon spread like wildfire. The company claimed that it was going to be the richest gold mine ever discovered. Mining investors rushed to invest and the stock price of Bre-X started climbing, and it rose from pennies to $280 per share.
Michael deGuzman kept on salting the samples, and that worked until 1997. In 1997, the Indonesian government got involved, and from February 1997, the evaluation of the site began. In March 1997, deGuzman committed suicide by jumping from a helicopter. Bre-X and its mine’s reputation started going downhill from then on. On March 26, 1997, an American firm announced that its core sample collected from Busang contains a negligible amount of gold. As a result, the Indonesian government postponed signing the mining deal with Bre-X. Stock prices began to fall, and thousands of investors lost billions. TSE and NASDAQ suspended trading of Bre-X stock, and it went bankrupt on November 5, 1997.
2. Founded in 1985, the Enron Corporation claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion during 2000 and employed approximately 20,000 staff. But the real value of the company was exposed at the end of 2001, after which the company was declared bankrupt. Enron was responsible for wiping out over $78 billion in stock market value.
The American company Enron came into focus after 1996 when it began reporting a steady increase in its sales each succeeding year. From 1996 to 2000, the sales of Enron was reported to increase from $13.3 billion to a staggering $100.8 billion. It was declared as “America’s Most Innovative Company” by Fortunemagazine for six consecutive years. But at the end of 2001, the actual financial condition of Enron was revealed. The report stated its accounting fraud, also known as the “Enron Scandal,” and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
The Enron Scandal revealed the loopholes in accounting rules in America. The company used to book revenue from huge energy-derivative contracts at their gross value instead of their net value. Basically, Enron served as a middleman on deals. It would put together a seller with a prospective buyer and take “delivery” of the contract. Then it would book the entire “sale” as its own revenue. This was made possible due to a loophole in the procedures approved by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). According to the board, each company had a “free option” as to how to account for the deals of energy contracts.