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01 July 2014

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

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flashboys 2“The U.S. financial markets had always been either corrupt or about to be corrupted,” writes Michael Lewis in his new book Flash Boys.

The shadow-casting book about high frequency traders hit the publishing arena as the feds were simultaneously hitting the streets to uncover the secretive, billion-dollar world. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Justice Department, and the FBI have finally stepped in to stop the unregulated dark pools of the stock market, that make insider training look like stealing sand from the beach.

In perhaps the most blunt explanation of the HFT world, Lewis writes, “Imagine, for instance, that someone passed a rule, in the U.S. stock market as it is currently configured, that required every stock market trade to be front-run by a firm called Scalpers Inc. Under this rule, each time you went to buy 1,000 shares of Microsoft, Scalpers Inc. would be informed, whereupon it would set off to buy 1,000 shares of Microsoft offered in the market and, without taking the risk of owning the stock for even an instant, sell it to you at a higher price.”

Reading Michael Lewis’ new book reminds me of DiCaprio’s scene in The Wolf of Wall Street where he flips off an individual client over the phone throughout a crooked sale, as his band of misfits listens intently, with high-fives and hard-ons in the background. The difference with the individuals involved in Flash Boys is that they acted private and seemingly subtle, but with more collateral damage than can ever be calculated.

Related Note: Currently, Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Newsroom) is in talks to turn the book into a screenplay, after his recent adaptation of Lewis’ other bestseller, Moneyball.

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