Report — From the July 2013 issue

Glaciers for Sale

A global-warming get-rich-quick scheme

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The Canadian dentist behind what may or may not have been the world’s first global-warming Ponzi scheme either lives or does not live in Iceland. His name is Otto Spork, and when I first learned of him, in 2008, he had secured the water rights to a glacier north of Reykjavík and quit his dental practice to run the most successful hedge fund in Canada. His Toronto investment firm, Sextant Capital Management — the name was chosen to honor his paternal grandfather, Johan Marinus Spork, a Dutch sea captain — had recently been claiming 730 percent returns for its investors. Spork’s sales pitch was simple: the world was warming and parts of it were running dry, so Sextant bought water companies. Hundreds of Canadian and offshore investors were persuaded to buy in — and Spork earned millions of dollars in management fees as money poured into his funds. The arrangement succeeded magnificently until December 8, 2008, three days before Bernie Madoff was arrested, when the Ontario Securities Commission accused Spork of a massive fraud.

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’s forthcoming book about climate change, Windfall, will be published in January by the Penguin Press. He is a fellow at the Investigative Fund.

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