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David Fickling

Harpooning the Noble Whale

The trading company must now sell not just its book, but parts of its body.
Fishing for whales in the mid 19th century. After a work by French artist Ambroise Louis Garneray, 1783 1857.
Ken Welsh/Getty Images

Trading has always thrived on a degree of secrecy.

A used car that would normally sell for $10,000 might only get $8,000 if the buyer finds out the seller is three months late on her mortgage payments. If the buyer finds out she's just been fired, too, he might get it for $6,000.