Wall Street just can’t seem to help itself. Elite traders, not satisfied with the deluge of dollars they already were taking in on behalf of their hedge funds, are screwing rank-and-file workers by using special high-speed networks to find out what stocks others are buying and then buying them first. This rigging of the system — perfectly legal under current rules — allows them within milliseconds to buy and then sells shares and take in tiny profits, over and over again.
Michael Lewis, author of the new book “Flash Boys,” told the CBS show “60 Minutes” last night anyone with a retirement plan invested in the stock market is paying the price to benefit insiders who have already made tens of billions of dollars manipulating the system.
“The United States stock market, the most iconic market in global capitalism is rigged … by a combination of the stock exchanges, the big Wall Street banks and high-frequency traders,” he told journalist Steve Kroft. “The insiders are able to move faster than you and play it against orders in ways you don’t understand.”
The new book does not stand on an island alone, however. Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Eric Scheniderman announced a probe into the enhanced electronic access marketed to professional traders that allowed them to buy access to faster data linkups, saying equity and transparency is needed in the process.
“Rather than curbing the worst threats posed by high-frequency traders, our markets are becoming too focused on catering to them,” N.Y. AG Schneiderman said March 18. “I am committed to cracking down on fundamentally unfair – and potentially illegal – arrangements that give elite groups of traders early access to market-moving information at the expense of the rest of the market.”
He followed that up with a CBS interview this morning where he said more needs to be done to improve the process. “We can prevent unfair advantage, and we can avoid the destabilizing effect that high frequency trading can have,” Schneiderman said.
Government cannot expect hard-working Americans to buy into a system that is crooked. Recent history has shown that the interests of the top have been put before those of the rest. That is simple unacceptable in a democracy. When there are clear-cut examples of such arrangements, they need to be dealt with swiftly to regain the trust of regular people.
This is such an example. Now is the time.