BENV 2115: Market Manipulations

BENV 2115 – Market Manipulations – 3.0 credits

Barry M. Mitnick (mitnick@pitt.edu)

This course in business history examines a range of market manipulations, including speculation events such as bubbles, panics, and manias; scams such as Ponzi schemes; “exploits” that use the rules of the organization for corrupt purposes; cost or risk-shifting; rent-controlling behavior that takes advantage of control over essential resources producing market power; expropriations such as theft and embezzlement; enticement events such as bribery; and normative rents or cover that use trust producing or promise-keeping processes or institutions to conceal fraud. It also examines some of the social, institutional, and governmental attempts to deal with these manipulations. Thus, what is perhaps unusual in this course is its dual treatment of both the mechanisms by which

opportunistic actions are taken in markets, and the attempts to ameliorate impacts that occur as byproducts of such actions. In order to provide this dual treatment, the course examines and compares a selection of historical contexts, often tracing those contexts via the experience of major historical actors. Please note that this is not a course in stock market manipulation/strategies, but in the historical means by which economic markets and the firms in them have been managed to achieve private ends and the dysfunctional events, such as panics, that can characterize such markets. Thus, major objectives of the course are development of student understanding of the forms and management of several major kinds of market manipulations, of the historical contexts and consequences of such actions, and, importantly, of the insights that such study can provide for modern business behavior.