Kosuga passed away at the ripe age of 86 in January 2001 in Goshen, New York, close to his beloved town of Pine Island. He died just two days after his birthday, which was the same day as his wedding anniversary to Pauline, his wife of over six decades, who died eight years later. Upon his death, Pauline stated that her husband “was the biggest onion grower in the east.
Everyone called him The Onion King” and added, “He always was the leader. Vincent was a very bright boy”. The pair, who were both born in the same year, had known each other since their teenage years, and Pauline remembered him as “a friend” and “a loyal husband.”
A Group of Reddit Users Briefly Influenced the Market in 2021
In an example of stock market manipulation in the era of social media, two companies' stock prices were sent on a whirlwind ride by “Wall Street Bets,” a subreddit belonging to the social media site Reddit. The subreddit, which analyzes the stock market with a satirical and comical approach, got together to buy the stocks of movie theater company AMC and video game seller GameStop.
These two companies were on a downward spiral. Their stock buying gained momentum, and for a while, the prices for both companies went through the roof before crashing back to reality. Though this event did not come close to what Kosuga did back in the 1950s, it is an interesting example of how manipulating markets has evolved with the times.
Onion Farming Is Still a Tough Business
Because growing onions depends a lot on the whims of the weather and other factors that are hard to control, being in the onion business was never a particularly easy task before, during, or after Kosuga’s time. After Kosuga and Siegel were taken out of the market for a time, the price of onions was still volatile, often rising and falling unexpectedly.
Ironically, banning onion futures also limited the financial options of farmers: before, futures were another tool in the toolbox by which farmers could sell their produce ahead of time — instead of having to pay the costs of storing them, for instance. After Kosuga and the legislation that his actions inspired, this was no longer possible.
The Onion Futures Act Was Amended in 2010
Strangely enough, the Onions Futures Act was amended 52 years after its passing to include, of all things, movie box office futures. The amendment came after lobbying from the Motion Picture Association of America, which did not approve of the increasingly common practice of folks speculating about the box office success or failure of movies.
Such activities lent themselves to be subject to insider trading, which is why the amendment included a provision that stated that box office receipts could only be valid for two days after being emitted. Echoing the language used back when the Onion Futures Act was passed, the Motion Picture Association argued that allowing box office futures to flourish would allow “unbridled gambling” and would negatively affect the integrity of the film industry.
Could Kosuga Have Pulled This Off Today?
Even though market manipulation can still occur today in more sophisticated ways, the short answer is no: Kosuga could not have cornered the onion market today in the way he and Sam Siegel did in the 1950s. The reason is that there is so much more information out there, making it much easier to expose schemers like Kosuga.
If someone tried to buy such large amounts of a commodity like soybeans or cocoa — not to mention transporting and storing them — it would be harder to hide in 2023 than in 1953. Similarly, making such big moves in the futures market, with all the digital technology now involved in it, would quickly raise eyebrows as well.