We have talked extensively on our blog and in our white papers about the power of high frequency trading and program trading. We have noted that these trading strategies can move the market quickly during the trading day. We have always suspected that there have been certain major players that can dominate this space. Now comes the case of the stolen proprietary trading code from Goldman Sachs.
Most interesting in this Bloomberg article is the following statement by Assisitant U.S, Attorney Joseph Facciponti:
The bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways, Facciponti said.
Is this an admission by Goldman Sachs that there is the possibility of manipulation in the market? Does anyone think that this is the only program in the world that can manipulate markets? With all the programmers in the world, we can only imagine how many more manipulative programs are out there. Now here is the best part according to the assistant U.S. Attorney:
The proprietary code lets the firm do sophisticated, high- speed and high-volume trades on various stock and commodities markets, prosecutors said in court papers. The trades generate many millions of dollars each year.
Markets are a zero sum game - somebody wins and somebody loses. Where do you think these many millions of dollars are coming from? They are coming from you - the average retail investor and the large institutional investor. These programs are taking advantage of real order flow and are siphoning off small profits throughout the day that belong in the pockets of the retail investor and the traditional money manager. [TD: highlight mine]
So, who is out there to protect you from these machines and their army of programmers? One would think the SEC has your back. But what did they have to say about high frequency trading. According to an article in the WSJ (http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20090618-707189.html )
The Securities and Exchange Commission believes institutional money managers are sophisticated enough to trade against the machines without further regulation.
We don't want to curtail liquidity, said Gene Gohlke, associate director for the SEC. Gohlke said it's up to the managers themselves to make sure other traders aren't manipulating their models.
This story is just at the beginning stages and we here at Themis Trading intend to keep a careful watch on it.