This article examines the trial of former Goldman Sachs employee Fabrice Tourre, who was held liable for securities fraud in 2013, and asks what it tells us about postcrisis understanding of politics and critique. What does it mean to hold Tourre individually liable amid the complex human-technological assemblage of derivatives trading? What does this trial tell us about the ways the boundary between legitimate speculation and illegitimate fraud is drawn and performed in the postcrisis era? What is important is that Tourre’s is not a case of a rogue trader, but pivoted on the contractual assembly of a collateralized debt obligation contract as representative of a particular class of instruments whose financial and social value is being questioned. I suggest that the trial can be understood as a prolonged practice of deliberation and doubt that entails a profound clash with financial time. The legal judgment enacts a (temporary) pronunciation on derivative value, thus interrupting the continuous flow of circulation and contested valuation. The article discusses three elements that were central to the Tourre trial. First, it shows the derivative as a social relation that assembled the “real” and the “speculative” in very specific ways and across localities. Second, it allows us to see how the value of the derivative was written not just through calculative instruments but also through institutional practice and notions of reputation. Third, it analyzes how the derivative cuts across present and future and how, ultimately, the verdict underwrites the social value of the derivative as a mode of infinitely trading on uncertainty and liquidating the uncertain future.
Marieke de Goede; Speculative Values and Courtroom Contestations. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 April 2015; 114 (2): 355–375. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2862751
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