Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Futures Trader Burns Tyson With $200 Million Loss on Fake Cattle

It took a while to notice, but Tyson Foods Inc. eventually realized late last year that more than 200,000 of its cattle seemed to have gone missing on a Washington state ranch. It turns out that they never existed. That’s the bizarre upshot from the collapse and bankruptcy of Easterday Ranches, which was under contract to house, raise and feed bovines for Tyson. All told, the episode cost the biggest U.S. meat company and another producer more than $200 million, and the rancher who gambled it away on cattle and corn futures may be headed for prison. Easterday Ranches in Pasco, Washington -- a real place with real animals formerly run by one Cody Easterday -- raised the kind of cattle that ideally weigh more than 1,000 pounds each, according to court papers. Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. paid the ranch millions of dollars for purchasing cattle on its behalf and fattening them for slaughter, an arrangement that dates from at least 2010. But five years ago, Easterday started sticking Tyson with phony invoices for never-purchased animals -- “ghost cattle,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice -- and used the proceeds to cover steep losses from risky futures trading, court papers show. Over the course of a decade, Cody Easterday lost money every year trading corn and cattle futures in his personal and business accounts, ultimately totaling more than $200 million, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The CFTC filed suit against Easterday last week, alleging fraud. He used payments from Tyson to cover wrong-way bets and lied to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange about the ranch’s cattle inventory so he could keep trading, the agency alleges. The arrangement came tumbling down in late 2020, when Tyson discovered that Easterday’s books -- as well as its own -- were “significantly in error,” Tyson said in a lawsuit targeting the ranch. Specifically, Tyson discovered the 200,000 missing animals. Easterday copped to the billing scheme after being confronted by Tyson representatives, according to court papers...MORE

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