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The Plunge Protection Team Explained

What is the Plunge Protection Team?

The Plunge Protection Team (PPT) is an informal term for the Working Group on Financial Markets. The working group was created in 1988 by then U.S President Ronald Reagan following the infamous October 1987 Black Monday market crash. It was formed to re-establish consumer confidence and take steps to achieve economic and market stability in the aftermath of the market crash. The U.S president consults with the team during times of economic uncertainty and turbulence in the markets.

The Working Group on Financial Markets’ informal name “Plunge Protection Team” was coined and popularized by The Washington Post in 1997.

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What does the Plunge Protection Team Do?

The Plunge Protection Team was initially formed to advise the president and regulatory agencies on countering the negative impacts of the stock market crash of 1987. However, the team has continued to report to various presidents since that stock market crash and has met various U.S presidents on important financial matters over the years.

The team was believed to be behind the rally in the stock market shortly after a hefty drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) on February 05, 2018. As per some market observers, after the plunge, the market made a smart recovery in the following days, which may have been a result of heavy buying by the Plunge Protection Team.

Who is on the plunge protection team?

The Plunge Protection Team comprises several top government economic and financial officials. The Secretary of the Treasury heads the group, while the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, are also part of the team.

Why is the PPT secretive?

The Plunge Protection Team’s meetings or activities aren’t covered by the media, which gives rise to speculations and conspiracy theories about the team. The probable reason behind the secretive nature of its activities is that it reports only to the president. Some observers opine that the team’s role is not only limited to giving recommendations to the president; rather, the team intervenes in the market and artificially props up stock prices.

Critics of the group claim that the members connive with big banks and profit from stock markets by carrying out trades on different stock exchanges when prices decline. They then artificially prop up the prices as part of their market stabilization efforts and profit from their transactions.

When does/have the PPT meet?

Although very little has come out in the mainstream media about the group’s activities, there have been some instances when the team’s meetings were reported. For example, in 1999, the team proposed to congress to incorporate some changes in the derivatives markets regulations. The last reported meeting of the group, at the time of this writing in June 2022, was in December 2018 when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin headed the teleconference with the group’s members. Representatives from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Comptroller of the Currency also attended the meeting.

Before the teleconference that took place on December 24, 2018, the S&P 500 and the DJIA had been under pressure for the whole month. But after Christmas, the DJIA and the S&P 500 both recovered and reversed most of the losses in the next few days. Conspiracy theorists attribute the recovery and gains in the indices to the intervention by the Plunge Protection Team.

Final Thoughts

The Working Group on Financial Markets serves an important function: to advise the president on financial markets and economic affairs. Because the exact nature of the group’s activities or recommendations haven't been made public, some critics of the group blame the group for market intervention and artificially propping up stocks’ prices. However, some market observers believe that the team’s quiet activities are excused as it reports directly to the president.

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