top of page

Unraveling the Legacy of "Mr. Copper": The Yasuo Hamanaka Story

Yasuo Hamanaka, also known as "Mr. Copper," was a Japanese commodities trader who gained notoriety for his involvement in a massive copper trading scandal in the 1990s. Hamanaka worked for Sumitomo Corporation, one of Japan's largest trading companies, where he was responsible for trading copper futures and options on the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Hamanaka's career at Sumitomo began in the 1970s, and he quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the company's top traders. He developed a reputation as a skilled and aggressive trader, known for his ability to corner the market and manipulate prices to his advantage.

In the early 1990s, Hamanaka began accumulating large positions in the copper market, effectively controlling a significant portion of the world's copper supply. He used a combination of legitimate trading strategies and market manipulation tactics to drive up the price of copper and generate profits for Sumitomo.

Hamanaka's activities went unnoticed for several years, but suspicions began to arise as copper prices reached record highs. In 1996, the LME launched an investigation into irregularities in the copper market, which ultimately led to Hamanaka's downfall.

The investigation revealed that Hamanaka had been engaging in unauthorised trading and price manipulation on a massive scale. He had been concealing his trading losses by misreporting profits and using company funds to cover up his tracks.

In June 1996, Sumitomo Corporation announced that Hamanaka had accumulated losses of over $2.6 billion through unauthorised copper trading. The revelation sent shockwaves through the financial world and led to a significant drop in copper prices.

Hamanaka was subsequently arrested by Japanese authorities and charged with fraud, forgery, and breach of trust. In 1998, he was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison, one of the longest sentences ever handed down for financial crimes in Japan.

The Sumitomo copper scandal exposed serious flaws in the oversight and regulation of commodities markets, prompting calls for greater transparency and accountability. It also served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked speculation and market manipulation.

Since his release from prison, Yasuo Hamanaka has largely remained out of the public eye. Little is known about his activities in the years following the scandal, and he has rarely spoken publicly about his role in the events that led to his downfall.

Despite the passage of time, the Sumitomo copper scandal and the actions of Yasuo Hamanaka continue to be studied by economists, regulators, and traders alike. The case serves as a reminder of the risks associated with unchecked speculation and the importance of effective oversight in financial markets.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page