Akseli Virtanen

Democratizing the Power of Finance.
A Discussion about Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative

Pekka Piironen: What is Robin Hood?

Akseli Virtanen: Robin Hood is an asset management cooperative we established in June 2012. It is a counter-investment bank of the precariat, which is rethinking means of finance and financial services. We’re bending the financialization of the economy to our benefit.

Pekka: How do you do this?

Akseli: We operate a massive dynamic data-mining algorithm – we call it the “Parasite” – which logs onto the brains of the bankers on Wall Street, and they don’t even know it. We know exactly what they do and when. We know who can make money consistently with certain instruments. Robin Hood is our means of sharing this knowledge. In the first year, the value of our portfolio rose 30.74 percent. With this result we were the third best hedge fund in the world. Now, after the second year, we are up 40.15 percent.

Pekka: Some time ago a big Nordic newspaper headlined that “Robin Hood robs from the financial elite. Asset management for those without assets.” Robin Hood received marching orders from Aalto University and annoyed the art audience at the dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel. Is the mysterious Robin Hood Cooperative an investment club, art, or philosophy? Akseli, how does that sound?

Akseli: I think that asset management for those without assets is quite a good headline. We talk about minor asset management. It is our business.

“Minor” is a concept that comes from Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s conceptual toolbox. They took it from Franz Kafka’s diaries, where he was talking about authors within a major language who were nevertheless able to transform it into something else ... their own … by making it crumble and stammer, by operating in the tissues and edges, from within, by using the same language but turning it into something else. It is an attempt to think about political means, means of change, where there is no outside. “Minor” is something that always brings together the personal and political. It is always about making our existential territories more habitable. And it is always something collectively produced. It changes power relations by changing the conditions of a situation. It works for “a people to come” by opening new routes and processes of becoming.

So, minor asset management is a very special way of managing assets – a way that makes something new possible when it looks like nothing new is possible. A becoming. This is our invention. But it is also management of the assets of minorities, in Kafka’s sense, who will never and can never become major, but will always remain like spit in the salad. And our other particularity is management of minor assets, small assets. A lot of small assets working together. We also don’t mind the connotation of being underage – not legally responsible, a minor, in a process of still becoming – as an attribute to our way of managing assets or to the assets managed. There is something true, there, too.

“Marching orders” from Aalto University is perhaps not quite accurate, because we weren’t courting them in any way. We were in the middle of the normal establishment of a start-up or a spin-off company – which was, by the way, what they were hoping from the Future Art Base from the beginning. Aalto Arts is badly disadvantaged here, in comparison to the schools of business and technology at the university. What was frustrating in these “marching orders” was that the university management didn’t really bother to find out what the project was about. They just fired us because Robin Hood was thought to be potentially dangerous to the reputation of the university. That was their exact wording. The decisions were just dictated based on a “preemptive solution” and they were never explained or justified for us in any way. This is how arbitrary power works. It tries to organize and control the possibility of our action and thought.

“Investment club” is also an exciting choice of words. I don’t exactly know what it means. We are a normal Finnish company operating under Finnish law. The form of the company is a cooperative. And we are in the middle of establishing Robin Hood America in Silicon Valley.

Philosophy? That we certainly are – especially insofar as we can think that the task of philosophy is to create new concepts – but politics might have been more understandable in terms of our context, starting points, and aims. Is Robin Hood business; an art of politics? This is an interesting starting point for any discussion.

Pekka: And why the name Robin Hood?

Akseli: Everybody knows what Robin Hood does. In the age of semiotic inflation and information overload, we don’t want to spend too much time explaining. You know, you need to get it in a different way.

The roots of Robin Hood are in the British Forest Law, which allowed Norman kings to add more and more common forest areas to their ownership. Villages, houses, fields, and even churches were destroyed to add new land to king’s forests. Inhabitants of those areas were thrown out without food, resources, opportunities, and prospects. They had very limited options of survival – some submitted; some became informers, conmen, traitors, and other kinds of opportunists. The local officers were corrupted, and provided their services to those who could pay. And the punishments were severe: Robin Hood got his death penalty for poaching the king’s deer in Sherwood Forest.

Pekka: In a sense it’s not that different from the situation today.

Akseli: Now, 700 years later, we see new “Forest Laws” being enforced everywhere and the commons are again under threat. Again we need the financial services of Robin Hood, our methods are just little different due to the changed circumstances. Now we follow all transactions on the United States stock exchanges, make databases of market players, deconstruct them from individuals into dividuals, to extract the most of their knowledge and capabilities and put them to work for us. But the consequences are the same: the sheriffs of Nottingham are again clueless when they can no longer withhold the King’s deer or guard the routes of the wealth expropriated from the people. Robin Hood’s business is minor asset management. It means sharing and democratizing the power of finance.

Pekka: You have talked about Robin Hood as a parasite of financial economy and providing access to money that is not tied to having to work.

Akseli: There are two points here. First, “parasite” is a concept by Michel Serres. What is important here is what it tells of the relationship we have to the financial market and its representatives. We let them do all the work, so to speak. Why? Because, as Serres writes, the one who plays the position always wins over the one who creates the content. The latter is simple and naïve; the former complex and intelligent. By playing the position we dominate the relationship. It means that we have a relationship with the relationship itself. It is the meaning of the prefix “para” in the word parasite: to be on the side, not on the thing, but on the relationship. A parasite has relationships, it makes a system out of them.

Secondly, today there is an asymmetrical division between those who are able to create money by transforming it into financial capital (to earn money as separate income without needing to work) and those whose only access to money is to work, possibly at any cost and condition – or first take on debt, and then work. And furthermore, these two forms of money – the money you get for doing work (money as means of payment, money as means of exchange), and money as capital – have very different powers. Or more precisely, the former has no power, it is money castrated of any power, while the latter has power to command a future. It represents nothing, it has no equivalent, except in future exploitation of labor, nature, and society.

Robin Hood is developed as a strategic means to challenge this debt mechanism of control and of limiting our future. We also offer this other group of people a possibility of earning income that is not tied to the necessity to work. An access to money as capital. It is a very concrete opening of the field of the possible. It is an element of independence. That is why we can talk about democratization of finance. Or of profanation of finance: of taking something sacred that we are not allowed to touch or that only the priests can touch and understand – just think about the economy, the financial market, and its priests today – and returning it to common use and play.

Pekka: Robin Hood has been described as a “freak in the world of banking” and that the cooperative was established by a group of professors in economics and the arts in Aalto University.

Akseli: This is true, even if the professors were maybe not the majority in this group. The founding members of the cooperative were Tero Nauha, Karolina Kucia, Liisa Välikangas, Heidi Fast, Kari Yli-Annala, Jan Ritsema, Sakari Virkki, Teemu Mäki, Ana Fradique, Lauri Kananoja, Valentina Desideri, Pekka Piironen, and myself. There were years of preparation and building of momentum before this. On the board at the moment are me, Jan, Tere Vaden, and Tiziana Terranova. We have more than 300 members from 15 different countries and are about to move to the next level of the operation.

Pekka: You have also talked about Robin Hood as a hedge fund of the precariat, right?

Akseli: Our aim is to bend the financialization of the economy to the benefit of those who have thus far been paying its costs: workers at the mercy of the precarization of work, suffering from the lack of security of the labor market and social rights, growing indebtness, of the decreasing price of labor and of the downsizing of the welfare state. That quite clearly states the relationship of our starting points. Disinflation is the monetary relationship of the financialization of economy and precarization of work. We see this now very clearly in Europe. How is it possible for these deficits to exist without any inflation? Because the logic has changed, the logic of derivatives has provided a means to manufacture liquidity which does not devalue the base currency. That is why at the moment our capacity to assume debt and pay taxes and be the direct bearer of austerity measures – for governments spend less for one simple reason; to be able to borrow more – creates direct vehicles for capital accumulation (which are not investments in expanding production). The increasing supply of government bonds (a safe means for capital preservation) is possible only through deficit cuts and excluding inflationary spending. It is like the financial equivalent of raw material for industrial production, as Robert Meister has said so well. In the financial economy, the surplus is extracted more directly from this capacity than from the decreasing number of people employed to goods and services production. Today, growth in the forms of indebtedness is the social condition for capital accumulation, just like increasing labor force participation was for expanding commodity production.

In this condition, Robin Hood operates exactly like hedge funds, and not like a bank’s “retail fund.” Robin Hood owns stock in other companies as the only asset, and operates with greater flexibility than banks. The investments of members are open-ended and withdrawals are allowed only at certain moments of the fiscal year. The value is calculated as a share of the NAV (net asset value), which means that the increases and decreases in the value of cooperative’s investment assets and expenses are directly reflected in the amount a member can later withdraw. This is exactly what hedge funds do, too, but what Robin Hood hedges is precarity – it takes a position in the financial market to offset and balance risk adopted by assuming a position on a contrary market, the precarious labor market, where so far people have just been paying the bills of financialization by letting it use our capability to assume debt and pay taxes as the main raw material for accumulating financial assets.
Robin Hood’s asset management is based on the idea at the origin of the derivative market: it is possible to produce new assets by means of hedging existing ones. Finance is essentially a technology to create spreads (through creating doubts, uncertainty, volatility, constant threat of illiquidity) that are valued and can be arbitraged. In quite a smart way, Robin Hood is using the same new capitalist financial alchemy of turning uncertainty into rent. 
Pekka: By this you mean the Parasite algorithm, which takes advantage of the spreads and volatilities of the stock markets?
Akseli: Yes, exactly. From the beginning we said that we are utilizing the inefficiency of the financial market and our understanding of how public opinion, or market sentiment, organizes the multitude of players on the market. We do big data. The Parasite, which Sakari has designed and developed, follows all the transactions on the United States stock markets, identifies the spreads, the best players, and follows their swarming – and then imitates the emerging consensus action of these top players. Quite simply, the assets of the cooperative are invested in the market by following and imitating the emerging consensus action, or swarming, of the world’s best investors.

The hypothesis of the efficient market is, by the way, one of the most important truths of the current economic policies. Our operation is based on a completely different understanding of how the market works and the mechanisms of creating economic value today, for example the role of flock behavior, origin of imitation, and means of controlling a swarm in this.

Pekka: So you are following a computer program? 

Akseli: I think it’s funny when the Parasite and Robin Hood are interpreted like this. We are dealing with a little more than “a computer program.” For example the whole Polemos book series we published in early 2000 with Tutkijaliitto was created to build this understanding and organization. There are wonderful books, 14 altogether, published in this series, written by the best economic and political thinkers at the moment. For example Christian Marazzi’s Capital and Language, Maurizio Lazzarato’s The Revolutions of Capitalism, Franco Berardi’s Info-Labour and Precarious States of Mind, Bracha Ettinger’s Copoiesis, Félix Guattari’s Chaosmosis, also my book Critique of Biopolitical Economy and the famous The Dictionary of New Work, which was based on a long lecture series we organized at the School of Economics. It is important to understand that the Parasite coded by Sakari is an essential part of the operation, but what is really important is the approach behind it, that is, the understanding of the changed nature of creation of value. I don’t know how I could emphasize this more. It sounds so funny when somebody just says that here are these dudes investing based on a program – I mean after all the research, Sakari’s research, and development work, and books and years of theoretical and experimental work we’ve put into this. And there is the massive empirical testing of the Parasite carried out over six years, between 2003 and 2009, on the United States stock markets. And even more importantly, Sakari’s research work on the algorithm and product development with the Parasite has been actually going on for more than 20 years. Robin Hood has not just dropped from the heavens.

Pekka: In discussions on the Web, Robin Hood has been suspected of being a hoax, and it also bewildered audiences by appearing in the dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany – an important contemporary art exhibition.

Akseli: But maybe it is a hoax? We think of ourselves essentially as an organization built on this kind of distrust. We’ve noticed that we cannot argue against these “it must be a hoax” claims with arguments. Somehow it seems that something more is here at stake, something beyond rational communication. I have thought that this kind of impossibility of accepting Robin Hood as it is – as a “monster” and a “parasite” – tells about the bafflement in front of a paradox and about an attempt to deal with it by forcing Robin Hood into some familiar category (hoax, art project, greedy entrepreneurship, et cetera) so that one could sleep at night and go on with the self-evidencies of one’s life without inconvenient disturbances.

The dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel was a very important event for us in many senses. I think that the best economic analyses come at the moment from the sphere of art, not from the departments of economics and business. They’ve said very little that’s interesting on the current European crises, for example.

Pekka: Robin Hood has been in operation for two years. The cooperative opened an office in Stuttgart. And the next ones are in Berlin and Dublin?

Akseli: Yes, it is a working model that suits us. We can set it up in any space; in a café, a museum, a park, a university. We call it an office, a temporary office, where we, well, work like you do in the office … or how we imagine work in an office – usually on particular themes like algorithmic production and its aesthetics, rethinking financial services, cryptocurrency and equity, processes of the production of the commons, some legal issues – depending on what is on our immediate agenda. But the office is always open and anybody is welcome to listen or join us in the work. Usually we also meet local networks, people, and institutions who are interested in joining and cooperating with Robin Hood. The point is that we don’t want to come to just talk at some event, because we simply don’t have time for that. You know there is already too much communication. So if we go somewhere we want to make sure it is worthwile for us. We try to work together while there is a possibility for this and use these offices to do so. It is hard to get our people together at the same time and place, as I am sure you know, as production has become spatially boundless and temporally endless. And we require our organizers to open their networks and put their asses on the line a little bit too: to help us meet key people who could be interested in Robin Hood, also from cultural institutions (funds, museums, galleries), and from networks of real finance money, funds, wealthy individuals, artists, and angel investors interested in the production of commonfare, disruptive financial services, and impact investments. We don’t organize to do Robin Hood. We do Robin Hood to organize.

Pekka: And was there an international audience of artists, activists, philosophers, professors? I saw images of the office and it was full of diagrams and words like aesthetics of algorithmic production, growth, dividuals, exhaustion of the possible, machinic surplus value, commonfare, parrhesia, and that some radical philosophers like Deleuze and Guattari were dropped into the discussion?

Akseli: We are researchers of economy and organization. We knew as early as the mid-1990s that this wouldn’t be a cakewalk when we started using thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Deleuze, Guattari, and then the Italian post-operaist thinkers – instead of mainstream economic and business theory – to study and understand economics better. Yet, without caring about the consequences, we have continued with our work because we knew that we are right – that this was the right way if we wanted to really understand how economy and its organization works today. With these thinkers we were able to understand, for example, how signs and meanings are part of real production and not only some kind of ideology or superstructure of production; how the use of language can have real effects; and how the dynamic of the production of value is in the organization of a heterogeneity, of heterogeneous forces, and not only in the relationship between capital and labor; and how it is possible to control not only actual but potential action and thought. With them we also understood the blurring of the boundaries between economy and politics and how the paradoxes of immaterial production – for example, that relations have weight and that the immaterial matters – cause problems to old approaches and distinctions, and that we need new concepts and methods if we want to understand what is going on. And that some of the key issues of the production value in economy today – like how to create an audience, get its attention, and keep and modulate it – have already been thought quite precisely in classical philosophy, rhetorics and dramaturgy, in semiotics and linguistic theory, et cetera.

Through this work we have now perhaps invented something significant – a new understanding of the creation of value on the financial markets and a mechanism of distributing this knowledge, which we call Robin Hood and minor asset management.

Pekka: Robin Hood is connected to ideas on basic income. Is Robin Hood trying to overturn capitalism through the stock exchange?

Akseli: Yes, the arguments for basic income are in fact quite similar. Our methods are just thought through a little further. But “overturning” belongs to the political means of the past century and not those of Robin Hood. What is important for comprehending Robin Hood, is to understand why the old political means of building independent life do not work anymore and why we need to invent new means. By the way, one very good analysis of this is your own Economy of Insecurity (Tutkijaliitto 2012).

Pekka: Thanks! I also think that my book is like a twin to your book about the arbitrary power working more on microeconomics and micropolitics, and mine on the macroeconomics and macropolitics of semiocapitalism. But where does your involvement with art come from?

Akseli: Robin Hood was one of the “factories of the immaterial” built at the Future Art Base in Helsinki where our aim was to create unforeseen and unthinkable (economic, political, social, emotional, organizational …) processes by using the power of art. Robin Hood is an experiment in developing the bases of such an art, an art of imagining and creating new social futures. It is an experiment in reopening the field of the possible.

The relationship between art and economy, or art and politics, cannot be about content: art expressing views of social resistance or art making things more salable is not relevant. We think that the common ground of art and politics and art and economy is today in the collapse of old forms of life and subjectivity and in the creation of new forms, this is where they meet. What can these new forms be today? Robin Hood is a method to bring and hold together many essential but heterogeneous elements like art, economy, and politics or opportunism, ethics, and weapons industry… It creates a new form, a new combination, a paradox or monster that doesn’t fit the boundaries of normal life, the easy flow of things and action. This was also our question at the dOCUMENTA (13), where Robin Hood was presented as an experiment in the creation of new social forms.

Pekka: Thinking about it now, there was a good social scientific tradition of economic research, and research in general, at the department when we were preparing our dissertations. I think it is very nice that this is remembered when we think about the direction of universities in Finland now.

Akseli: That is true. This tradition was quite strong at the Department of Organization and Management in the early 1980s, a few very strong and innovative initiatives to theoretically approach social economy were made there. I thought that our work was a continuation of this work, with circumstances and means that were a little bit different. But basically we were trying to do the same – to understand how economics and organization worked. In the late 1990s there was a good group of young researchers doing their PhDs at the School of Economics – for example you, me, Tiina Vainio, Jaakko Leskinen, Klaus Harju, Jukka Mäkinen – which was called the “Economy Circle.” Risto Heiskala then started to call us the “deconstructionists of the School of Economics,” which was a little more vivid and as such started spreading our names around. The first dissertation about Derrida and deconstruction in Finland came out from the School of Economics – it was Tiina’s dissertation. Jaakko Leskinen’s research on Gabriel Tarde, yours on Nancy and Georges Bataille, Klaus on Deleuze, me on Giorgio Agamben, Gilbert Simondon, and Guattari ... it was something great. Our friends in the philosophy, sociology, and political science departments did not believe that the School of Economics let us do this. Then we started to work closely with Risto Heiskala, with whom we organized the legendary “Economy and Social Theory” lecture series for example – which has now come out in three volumes by Gaudeamus. And then Sakari Hänninen, Jakke Holvas, Jussi Vähämäki, Mikko Jakonen, Jukka Peltokoski, et cetera, joined, and with each of them we did many interesting things as well. I would especially like to thank professors Kari Lilja and Risto Tainio, who gave us an example of what it means to do research; what an atmosphere of research means.

Pekka: But now new winds are blowing in Aalto University, both in terms of financing and research topics. Originally, Robin Hood was a project in the Future Art Base, which you coordinated for the university. It was presented as a university level top priority strategic initiative by the art department in October. After information on Robin Hood reached the highest management of the university, you were told that the financing for the whole Future Art Base would be immediately terminated. They said, “Robin Hood is potentially dangerous to the reputation of the university.”

Akseli: It was a surprise that they did what they did – quite simply we were just fired – without even trying to find out what this project was about. A preemptive action. I want to say this because we had prepared Robin Hood very carefully with the Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship and their lawyers. We knew that there was nothing “illegal” about Robin Hood.

Pekka: You say that Robin Hood is a paradox, a monster, an experiment in creating a new social form, and that it irritates people?

Akseli: Yes, I would say that we are an experiment in creating a new social form. The words “paradox,” “concept,” and “monster” are attempts to articulate this new form. Robin Hood is about the creation of these new forms I spoke about before. A paradox reveals the limits of our current understanding. A monster is something unpleasant, disgusting, and unnatural, a thing where things come together that do not “normally” belong together like art, economy, and politics.

So Robin Hood looks like a financial operation, but in a strange way. It creates a foreign language inside the automatism of financial control, it is a parasite that exceeds the established meanings of finance, makes them stutter and mutate. It releases minor finance from major finance, it turns major assets into minor assets. It is minor asset management. And it is also an attempt of reactivating the body of general intellect. Not in the old political way, but in a paradoxical way. In a monstrous way. In an insolvent way. In a disgusting way. Robin Hood sounds like a Ponzi scheme, a fake, or it could be a private group of aggressive entrepreneurs ready to take advantage of the naïve cultural people. It could be a hoax, a scam, or just an “art project.” It is unallowable, impossible, and disgusting … a monster ... But what is important is that it corresponds to our subjectivity.

Pekka: What is this subjectivity?

Akseli: Well, there is no heroism in the exhaustion and disillusionment we are experiencing. We have for example also described ourselves as a group of losers, sad figures, dark souls, cynical opportunists, and depressed princesses. We are not tough or macho, we are soft and wet, impotent and feeble. We don’t march or demonstrate. We don’t do revolutions. We have difficulties getting out of bed. And we need each other to stand up. We are “molle” people, the future of cooperation. This skepticism is not cognitive but ethical. The impasse is ethical and political at once, it affects our position, our exploration of the world. This dead end is Robin Hood’s breeding ground. Robin Hood is belief in this world, and not in some other one.

Pekka: And the art audience at the dOCUMENTA (13) didn’t easily stomach the performance by the merry men and women of Robin Hood?

Akseli: It was a fairly elaborate installation or performance, whose form was a paradox. A lot has been written about it, but I can say it again: Robin Hood is an attempt to think about the possibility of cooperation in a condition where it seems that distrust, suspicion, and exploitation of others have become the most important means of our survival. We’ve talked about these as the precarious states of mind. What does a cooperation of opportunists look like? How does a community of depressed people function? Or cooperation in a situation where we are exhausted by the fact that we need to put all our thoughts, feelings, tastes, and relationships to work all the time in every short-term project we get. These states of mind are organic parts of the way in which the economy works. Economy has become production of subjectivity. Here is also the reason why the old political means – like solidarity, creation of a collective conscious subjectivity, creation of your own values – are not operational anymore. We need to create new forms, paradoxes, and monsters that don’t fit the normal easy flow of thought and action and may seem disgusting, especially from the perspective of the old morality of the left.

Robin Hood breaks the natural and easy flow of independent action and ready environments, with its specters of mistrusts, weaknesses, confusions, fears, impossibilities, non-commitments, and insolvencies – around which we appeared at the dOCUMENTA (13), too. On the one hand it was a straightforward cold-blooded pitch event to raise more assets under management and exploit the structure of the dOCUMENTA like the meanest motherfuckers of the precariat would absolutely do. On the other hand, it was carried out in a way that was insolvent, which included presence of a risk of excess and deception, a semiotic insolvency, a paradoxical or poetic, non-sensical ambiguity of the project, which has not yet become communication but resonates with your subjectivity … which makes you “feel it,” and want to “touch it,” and forces the demonstrative gesture: “here.”

Pekka: Did the dOCUMENTA (13)’s artistic director accuse you of concentrating only on money?

Akseli: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, whom I really appreciate and like, was perhaps irritated in the end, and raised her voice to say that we were only thinking about money. As if the whole dOCUMENTA (13) had been made with love! She said that money doesn’t exist, only love. And the entire art audience nodded and hummed as a sign of consensus. We answered that we know the situation very well, because we work and produce everything all the time only with love, too – and it is exactly this that exhausts us. Robin Hood offers affective rest in this situation. This affective rest – that the members do not need to put all their abilities and skills and relationships to work, to create a community, et cetera – yet still have the possibility of generating income, is in the core of Robin Hood. Just invest your money; we will make it work and give you more back, and you can do what ever you want. You can save your love. We are a love bank. dOCUMENTA (13) crystallized it almost perfectly.

Pekka: The profit made by Robin Hood is distributed to the members, who have the possibility of either keeping the whole amount or giving a part of it to the common pool of the cooperative?

Akseli: That’s right.
Pekka: And Robin Hood’s investments have been doing really well?

Akseli: This is what I meant by results. We were able to create a start-up that financed itself, already in its first year, by income funding. And during the second year, we increased our assets under management more than tenfold.

Pekka: Have many newspaper reporters asked about proof of the portfolio’s existence?

Akseli: This is a very interesting question. How can you be certain that the Robin Hood portfolio exists? How can you be certain of something’s value? Because this is what they are really asking: does Robin Hood really exist, does its portfolio exist, and how can they be certain of that? And then we provide formal documents, registry papers, an auditing report of the company accounting by Ernst & Young, our portfolio report by Interactive Brokers, which is one of the most respected brokerage houses in the world. I don’t know what else we could do. I don’t know, if they are as thorough when they go to a normal bank, what kind of evidence they ask to prove that this or that fund offered by the bank really exists? What would Nokia have done, had they needed to prove to someone that they really exist? I wonder what kind of evidence their banks would provide if asked “does this fund really exist?”

But it is a good question. How can you be certain that a portfolio of any investment bank really exists? That it has value? What is this value made of? You must trust. Think about the Bernie Madoff affair, for example, the largest financial fraud in United States history, and how long he was able to carry on his investment scam, just because he was the ex-chairman of Nasdaq. The big banks spend billions to appear trustworthy and seduce people into trusting them. That’s their business. And do you think we should trust them? I mean, we know that they cheat, con, manipulate interests rates, the incredible bonus systems … how is trust created? This is the question at the core of Robin Hood. Unlike the normal banks and investment houses, we’re not afraid of this question. How is value actually created? And this is also why the priests refuse our entrance to the temple, so that the emperors without clothes are not revealed.

Pekka: The value of the Robin Hood portfolio rose 30.75 percent in the first year. And after the second year now, it is up 40.15 percent. It means that Robin Hood beat almost all of the funds operating on the United States stock market. Is Robin Hood a business, art, or a bold philosophical experiment? It fits all of those contexts.

Akseli: That is quite beautifully put. I would have added that Robin Hood is also an economic experiment. I would like to emphasize this, the economic side of Robin Hood, because it is from here that the so-called “economic experts” are trying to dismiss us. This is what the priests repeat: you philosophers and artists and temporary workers, you have no access here to the temple, you don’t understand, you cannot come here, you can’t touch this, you must let us deal with this. The funniest thing of course is, that Robin Hood has been able to create something that this clergy will not understand. This is also our best protection.

Pekka: Does it mean that Robin Hood is trying to beat the enemy by joining it?

Akseli: We don’t in fact join financial capital, we use it and appropriate it, like a parasite – unless you can think that a parasite joins its host. We are trying to find a way forward from the financialization of the economy. There is no return from there; our money is already there. There are no financial virgins. As soon as your money hits your account, the banks start using it to expand credit. And more importantly, our individual and collective capability to assume debt and pay taxes is the main raw material for accumulation of financial assets at the moment. In the past 30 years, the size of the derivative market has grown to become more than 20 times bigger than the entire world Gross National Product. And at the same time the number of banks has decreased by 40 percent. Only nine big investment banks actually control almost the entire derivative market. This has nothing to do with free competition or “may the best win.” During the first three months of 2013 alone, I repeat, the first three months alone, the net earnings of Goldman Sachs was more than $2.26 billion (Q1 in 2014 $2.02 billion), HSBC $6.35 billion (Q1 in 2014 $5.1 billion), JP Morgan $6.53 billion  (Q1 in 2014 $5.3 billion ) …. It’s quite a lucrative business. And our money, for example the retirement money, is already there too. We never see the profits. We just carry the risks. Our individual and collective capability to assume debt and pay taxes is used directly for making these profits.

Bending the financialization of economy into the advantage of precarious workers. Transforming the private profits into shared resources. Creating a relation with money that works as a means of freedom, escape, and increase of independence. Profanating finance; returning its space to common use and play. Appropriating the power of money as capital. This is our business.

And our strategy is ingenious. Like Serres’s parasites, we hook to the brains of the financial elite at Wall Street, and they don’t even know it. We appropriate the most important knowledge and capabilities of financial capital and its representatives and put them to work for us – just like capital normally puts to work our abilities and knowledge for the increase of its own value. This is minor asset management. Another way to occupy Wall Street.

Pekka: And now you’ve moved to California? What is happening?

Akseli: Yes, we are currently setting up the American Robin Hood in Silicon Valley. We are about to begin the next phase of Robin Hood, an IPO via issuing a crypto equity and development of an army of parasites.

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