Class action lawyers vs. high speed trading

by Walter Olson on April 27, 2014

The city of Providence R.I. has consented to serve as their client [Kansas City Star, Reuters, Center for Financial Stability, earlier on Michael Lewis book]

{ 2 comments }

1 great unknown 04.27.14 at 11:30 am

As Kissinger once said, “It’s a shame they can’t both lose.”

2 Carol Herman 04.27.14 at 7:49 pm

I read Michael Lewis’ book. Loved it. But way back in the early 1960′s, when my mom was selling jeans (retail), she made more money than she knew what to do with. My dad, who died in 1958 once said to my mom that he’d divorce her, if she “dabbled” in the stock market. (The Big Depression really scared my dad.)

But in the early 1960′s my mom started to invest. (As she said, she’d consider the first $10,000 she lost “her college education.”) She also told me stories, from the 1950′s. When the government began taxing savings accounts, that Italian women, who had been saving money, here, took it out. And, went across to the street to the local Merrill Lynch. Dime Savings Bank. Brooklyn. Avenue J.

The brokers didn’t know what to do with women investors. Those were the days it was thought that only men “did the investing.” The little old Italian grandmas didn’t speak great English, either. So, they’d say “blue chips.” “Blue” sounded like “bluh” … And, of course, the brokers assumed their husbands were all mafia. Where they didn’t want their kneecaps busted. And, these old ladies accounts were never churned!

Only later, after grandma and grandpa were both dead, did the children find blue chip certificates in bank vaults.

And, my mom, (just like Warren Buffett said), didn’t sell stocks once they were bought. “HOLD.” HOLD EVERYTHING.

Commissions weren’t cheap. Until Schwab came along lowering the sum paid in commissions. PLUS, the added value that the broker would NEVER call you on the telephone with some hot stock tip.

So? Well, so I always knew the “little investor” always paid retail.

Yes, Michael Lewis’ book fascinated me. Besides, my son is a programmer at Google. So, of course, I asked him to read it.

Blame Wall Street all you want. But you can’t get to high speed trading without the kids who can write algorithms. And, even in Lewis’ stories, these programmers are not running around Wall Street “calling their brokers.” If anything they were oblivious to what “speed” brought to trading!

The one sentence that really fascinated me was that brokerages would throw out all their electronic equipment every few months to keep up with all the new stuff that kept pouring out of Apple. And, Microsoft. And, Acer. They were changing their stuff more often than clothes horse women were changing their wardrobes!

Michael Lewis calls these wizards “Flash Boys.” What happens when they leave boyhood behind, and grow up into men?

Dr. Richard Feynmann once said he was so glad he was born when he was. Because science (especially quantum “stuff”) was moving so fast … it was doomed to slow down. And, then? It would get boring.

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