Michael Lewis's "Flash Boys": lifting the rock on crooked high-speed trading

Michael Lewis is the best finance writer in the business (see my reviews of The Big Short and Liar's Poker), a gifted storyteller with a firm grasp of his subject and real insider access and insight. He's got a new book out, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, which tells the story of the high-speed traders who turned the stock markets into (more of) a rigged game, and how the big incumbent banks fought back. The New York Times Magazine has adapted a long excerpt from the book and it's thrilling, shining a light on what New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called "insider trading 2.0."

“They told me it was because I was in New York and the markets were in New Jersey and my market data was slow,” Katsuyama says. “Then they said that it was all caused by the fact that there are thousands of people trading in the market. They’d say: ‘You aren’t the only one trying to do what you’re trying to do. There’s other events. There’s news.’ ”

If that was the case, he asked them, why did the market in any given stock dry up only when he was trying to trade in it? To make his point, he asked the developers to stand behind him and watch while he traded. “I’d say: ‘Watch closely. I am about to buy 100,000 shares of AMD. I am willing to pay $15 a share. There are currently 100,000 shares of AMD being offered at $15 a share — 10,000 on BATS, 35,000 on the New York Stock Exchange, 30,000 on Nasdaq and 25,000 on Direct Edge.’ You could see it all on the screens. We’d all sit there and stare at the screen, and I’d have my finger over the Enter button. I’d count out loud to five. . . .

“ ‘One. . . .

“ ‘Two. . . . See, nothing’s happened.

“ ‘Three. . . . Offers are still there at 15. . . .

“ ‘Four. . . . Still no movement. . . .

“ ‘Five.’ Then I’d hit the Enter button, and — boom! — all hell would break loose. The offerings would all disappear, and the stock would pop higher.”

At which point he turned to the developers behind him and said: “You see, I’m the event. I am the news.”

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt [Amazon]

The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

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