Rain ruins one of Norway’s richest men

Einar Aas bet that the spread between energy prices on the Nordic and German electricity markets would narrow, but heavy rains proceeded to fill the reservoirs of hydroelectric dams across northern Europe. Above, rainfall in the Telemark region of Norway. (Wikimedia Commons)
Updated 14 September 2018
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Rain ruins one of Norway’s richest men

  • Taking aggressive positions, Aas bet that the spread between energy prices on the Nordic and German electricity markets would narrow
  • However, the spread between the two markets grew bigger than ever — up to 17 times the normal position

OSLO: He built his fortune on dizzying forecasts but rain washed it all away: Einar Aas, one of Norway’s richest men, is now teetering on the verge of bankruptcy after betting the wrong way on the energy market.
A media-shy private trader, Aas made headlines on Friday in Norway and beyond, his misfortunes uncannily coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers.
The 47-year-old power trader said in a statement late Thursday he was now risking “personal bankruptcy.”
Taking aggressive positions, Aas bet that the spread between energy prices on the Nordic and German electricity markets would narrow.
But, after an unusually dry summer, heavy rains earlier this week filled the reservoirs of hydroelectric dams that provide much of northern Europe’s electricity, sending prices tumbling.
At the same time, a rise in carbon prices pushed up the German cost of electricity, which is largely fossil fuel-based.
As a result, the spread between the two markets grew bigger than ever — up to 17 times the normal spread, according to the Financial Times.
Aas used his last remaining liquidity — 350 million kroner (36 million euros, $42.5 million) — to cover his positions, but still found himself in default of payment.
“I had positions that were too high compared to the liquidity on the market,” he said on Thursday.
It was a brutal fall from grace for the man born on a farm in the southern town of Grimstad and who has several times topped the list of Norway’s highest earners.
The former Agder Energi trader, who left the company to go private in 2005, made a mind-boggling 833 million kroner in taxable income in 2016, according to tax figures, which are public in the Scandinavian country.
This amounted to an hourly income of 95,000 kroner, taking his personal fortune to an estimated 2.17 billion kroner.
Described in the Norwegian media as a brilliant student who developed a passion for poker and race horse betting at secondary school, he now risks having to sell his luxury real estate digs, including a spectacular 350-square-meter (3,750-square-foot) rooftop apartment in central Oslo.
The exact scope of the damage remains to be determined, but the Norwegian media are already calling it “the biggest loss” ever recorded by a private person in Norway.
The Nasdaq stock exchange is also licking its wounds.
The market operator, which closed and liquidated Aas’ portfolio on Wednesday, said it had “fully contained” the risks.
But Nasdaq was nonetheless left 114 million euros in the hole.
Of that, 107 million came from the mutual default fund clearing house members must contribute to — reportedly two-thirds of the entire fund — and seven million from Nasdaq’s own default fund.
“For an experienced trader, who knows the market like the back of his own hand, to accumulate such an enormous position that he is unable to pull out unscathed is shocking,” Norwegian business daily Dagens Naeringsliv wrote in a comment.
“It is also shocking that Nasdaq allows a single actor to take on a risk that de facto wipes out the default fund as well as its own market capital,” it added.


US surgeon, girlfriend charged with rape, ‘hundreds’ of victims possible

This combination of photos created on September 18, 2018 shows Grant William Robicheaux (L) and Cerissa Laura Riley (R) in mug shots photos released by the Orange County District Attorney's Office, California. (AFP)
Updated 44 min 47 sec ago
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US surgeon, girlfriend charged with rape, ‘hundreds’ of victims possible

  • Robicheaux and Riley are believed to have worked in tandem at restaurants and bars to identify their victims and make them feel comfortable
  • “Your conscious decisions to party with these defendants... does not give them a pass to rape, assault or have sex with you once you’re past the point of consent”

LOS ANGELES: An orthopedic surgeon in California who once appeared on a dating reality show and his girlfriend have been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two women, in a case prosecutors suspect might involve hundreds of other victims.
Authorities told AFP on Tuesday they had received dozens of leads in the probe, just hours after a press conference held to try to encourage other women to come forward.
“I am being told by investigators that their phones have been very active this afternoon,” said Michelle Van Der Linden, a spokeswoman for Orange County prosecutors.
“People are calling with additional information and we will be busy tracking down all the additional leads.”
The surgeon, 38-year-old Grant William Robicheaux, and his 31-year-old girlfriend, Cerissa Laura Riley, were charged on September 11 with rape as well as drug and weapons-related offenses in connection with two alleged assaults.
But investigators found hundreds of videos on Robicheaux’s phone after he was arrested, showing women “in various states of undress, consciousness and being assaulted,” Van Der Linden said. “We’re still going through those videos.”
Robicheaux — who once appeared on the Bravo television show “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” — and Riley are due to be arraigned on October 25.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters that Robicheaux and Riley are believed to have worked in tandem at restaurants and bars to identify their victims and make them feel comfortable.
“We believe the defendants used their good looks and charm to lower the inhibitions of their potential prey,” Rackauckas said.
“We’ve all heard of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Well, a wolf can wear scrubs or doctor’s clothing. Or a wolf can be a beautiful woman.”
The pair apparently used ecstasy, date rape drugs and cocaine to incapacitate their victims before assaulting them at Robicheaux’s home in Newport Beach, he said.
Authorities say Robicheaux and Riley traveled to various festivals since 2015, including Burning Man in Nevada, as well as landmarks in Arizona, where they may have preyed on other women.
Attorneys for Robicheaux and Riley issued a joint statement on Tuesday, denying the charges.
“They have been aware of these accusations for a number of months, and each of them will formally deny the truth of these allegations at their first opportunity in court,” said Robicheaux’s lawyer, Philip Cohen, and Riley’s lawyer, Scott Borthwick.
“Dr. Robicheaux and Ms Riley believe that such allegations do a disservice to, and dangerously undermine, the true victims of sexual assault, and they are eager to have the proper spotlight shed on this case in a public trial,” they added.
“It must be noted that none of the allegations in this matter relate to or concern Dr. Robicheaux’s medical practice or patients in any way.”
If convicted, Robicheaux faces up to 40 years in prison. Riley could face 30 years behind bars.
Rackauckas said potential victims of the pair should not be ashamed to come forward.
“Your conscious decisions to party with these defendants... does not give them a pass to rape, assault or have sex with you once you’re past the point of consent,” he said.