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On tonight's show 60 explored more ways the financial markets are being rigged using high speed trading to game the market.

 

Is the U.S. stock market rigged?

Steve Kroft reports on a new book from Michael Lewis that reveals how some high-speed traders work the stock market to their advantage

U.S. stock ownership is at a record low and less than half of Americans trust banks and financial services. And in the last two weeks, the New York attorney general and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission in Washington have both launched investigations into high-frequency computerized stock trading that now controls more than half the market.

The probes were announced just ahead of a much anticipated book on the subject by best-selling author Michael Lewis called "Flash Boys." In it, Lewis argues that the stock market is now rigged to benefit a group of insiders that have made tens of billions of dollars exploiting computerized trading. The story is told through an unlikely cast of characters who figured out what was going on and have devised a plan to correct it. It could have a huge impact on Wall Street. Tonight, Michael Lewis talks about it for the first time.

Steve Kroft: What's the headline here?

Michael Lewis: Stock market's rigged. The United States stock market, the most iconic market in global capitalism is rigged.

Steve Kroft: By whom?

Michael Lewis: By a combination of these stock exchanges, the big Wall Street banks and high-frequency traders.

Steve Kroft: Who are the victims?

Michael Lewis: Everybody who has an investment in the stock market.

Please take a few minutes to watch this segment (it does include an ad).

             

Steve Kroft: It only took a tiny fraction of a second for Brad's trade to reach the next exchanges on the network, but the high-speed traders were able to jump in front of him, buy the same stock and drive the price up before his order arrived, producing a small profit of just one or two pennies. But it was happening to everyone's trades millions of times a day.

Ronan Ryan: That adds up.

Steve Kroft: You make it sound like a skim.

Ronan Ryan: What else would you call it?

The High speed traders were exploiting a few millisecond time difference between exchanges so that time difference was eliminated. But when they eliminating the time differences between the exchanges who requested those back doors? Whoever made those requests wanted to go right on gaming the system and cheating us little people.
The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

By MICHAEL LEWIS

Trust on Wall Street was still — just — possible. The big investors who trusted Katsuyama began to share whatever information they could get their hands on from their other brokers. For instance, several demanded to know from their other Wall Street brokers what percentage of the trades executed on their behalf were executed inside the brokers’ dark pools. Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse ran the most prominent dark pools, but every brokerage firm strongly encouraged investors who wanted to buy or sell big chunks of stock to do so in that firm’s dark pool. In theory, the brokers were meant to find the best price for their customers. If the customer wanted to buy shares in Chevron, and the best price happened to be on the New York Stock Exchange, the broker was not supposed to stick the customer with a worse price inside its own dark pool. But the dark pools were opaque. Their rules were not published. No outsider could see what went on inside them. It was entirely possible that a broker’s own traders were trading against the customers in its dark pool: There were no rules against doing that. And while the brokers often protested that there were no conflicts of interest inside their dark pools, all the dark pools exhibited the same strange property: A huge percentage of the customer orders sent into a dark pool were executed inside the pool. Even giant investors simply had to take it on faith that Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch acted in their interests, despite the obvious financial incentives not to do so. As Mike Gitlin of T. Rowe Price says: “It’s just very hard to prove that any broker dealer is routing the trades to someplace other than the place that is best for you. You couldn’t see what any given broker was doing.” If an investor as large as T. Rowe Price, which acted on behalf of millions of investors, had trouble obtaining the information it needed to determine if its brokers had acted in their interest, what chance did the little guy have?

The stock market really was rigged. Katsuyama often wondered how enterprising politicians and plaintiffs’ lawyers and state attorneys general would respond to that realization. (This March, the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, announced a new investigation of the stock exchanges and the dark pools, and their relationships with high-frequency traders.
That the Stock Exchanges themselves were participants shows they were willing to sacrifice transparency in their markets they oversaw for increasing the number of their commissions. But hey that's how the Banksters operate, in a moral vacuum with a single metric: profits.  

This piece comes from back in 2009:

Stock Traders Find Speed Pays, in Milliseconds

By CHARLES DUHIGG

It is the hot new thing on Wall Street, a way for a handful of traders to master the stock market, peek at investors’ orders and, critics say, even subtly manipulate share prices.

It is called high-frequency trading — and it is suddenly one of the most talked-about and mysterious forces in the markets.

Powerful computers, some housed right next to the machines that drive marketplaces like the New York Stock Exchange, enable high-frequency traders to transmit millions of orders at lightning speed and, their detractors contend, reap billions at everyone else’s expense.

These systems are so fast they can outsmart or outrun other investors, humans and computers alike. And after growing in the shadows for years, they are generating lots of talk.

Nearly everyone on Wall Street is wondering how hedge funds and large banks like Goldman Sachs are making so much money so soon after the financial system nearly collapsed. High-frequency trading is one answer.

This is very reminiscent of the story of the LIBOR scandal. Capital looks for ways to game the system.

The time has come to impose a small transaction tax on every trade. That would put an end to high speed and high frequency trading.

The tax that could save America from Wall Street

By LYNN STUART PARRAMORE

It’s a simple tweak that would reign in an out-of-control financial sector, stimulate jobs, generate billions of revenue, and possibly prevent another heart-wrenching crisis. Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman want it. Billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates want it. Polls show the majority of Americans want it. Even the Pope wants it.

We’re talking about a financial transaction tax (FTT) — a tiny tax of, say, less than half a percent: maybe 3 cents per $100  — on Wall Street trading. It’s simple, more than fair, widely supported by the public, and long overdue.

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