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Eric Hunsader: The Financial System is 'Absolutely, Positively Rigged'

And the abuses are getting worse, not better
Monday, April 18, 2016, 8:36 PM

Eric Hunsader, founder of Nanex, has been at the vanguard of warning about the dangers and the rampant fraud that the rise of high-frequency trading (HFT) algorithims have let loose in today's financial markets.

While he usually feels like a lone voice in a world happy to deceive itself, he was shocked to receive a $750,000 whistleblower award from the SEC for his efforts. He's been sadly less shocked to see that since the award was publicly announced, the abuses he reported have only become more extreme and frequent.

Of the situation that led to his award, he says:

The folks at the NYSE were selling their direct feed for north of $30,000 a month versus the SIP which is under a thousand dollars a month. Their customers are not buying it because it has that much more rich data. The thing that makes it worth $29,000 more is that it is faster, but that is illegal. Up until this point they deny that that is the case. And somehow it works. So the exchanges make all their money from their highest paying customers which are the high frequency traders. And the high frequency traders pay the exchanges exorbitant amounts of money to have a slight advantage.

That's how the whole system works. It is absolutely, positively rigged. There is no question about it. It is rigged on many different levels in many different ways -- for example, no retail order ever gets to see the light of day of the stock exchange. That's one of the many eye openers. People who aren’t pros in the market don’t realize that it's all a rigged game.

Hunsader also had opportunity at one point to access the audit trail data from the CME futures exchange, data that the central authorities almost never allow outside eyes to see. What he found was clear evidence that a very small number of very large players push prices and volume around at will to vacuum up profits at the expense of everyone else:

I got to see the Fed analysis. This is a fascinating little story. It was the Treasury flash crash October 15th, 2014 which was every bit as bad as the stock market flash crash except it was in Treasurys. The Federal Reserve wanted to get to the bottom of it. They got people together to analyze data and they had to break them into two teams – one team got to look at the cash market trading data and the other team got to look at the audit trail data from the CME which told who was buying this order. One team wasn’t allowed to see the other data set.

If you want to analyze the situation properly you have to look at both sides in order to see what's going on here. You've got to see how the cash and the futures relate. But the teams were specifically not allowed do to this. People on the team that looked at the Treasury data were not allowed to see the cash market data and vice versa. This is data that is extremely hard to get because it is audit trail level. It shows who's behind each trade or order. I got to see some of the stats from the cash side. It is just amazing the percentage of the watched trading going on. Putting in fake orders and the level of spoofing, the level of just bad acting happening. 

And, once again, it was the top 10 institutions who pulled away the lion’s share of the profits. They totally dominate the market.

I've been apoplectic for so long I am just spent. Nothing would surprise me anymore. I really honestly don’t know how this is going to get corrected. I know it can’t continue.

But there's more. Last August, Hunsader published a chart showing that US stock futures are routinely and suspiciously lifted in the wee hours of the night when trading volume is at its lowest. The 2:00-3:00am EST hour in particular demonstrates a remarkably predictable behavior that leaves many suspecting outright market price manipulation:

Every once in a while I look at longer term fundamentals l and, when I did that study, I had to verify it many different times and many different ways because I just didn’t believe it. Basically, between 2 and 3:00am -- you buy at 2:00am and sell at 3:00am -- you would have captured half of the gains and none of the draw down since 2005, which is just unbelievable that it would have that kind of weight. You would expect every hour, over a long period of time, to be equal. It should be randomly equal. But certainly the early morning hours really stand out. And I don’t have an answer.

I would have thought after I first published that chart last August the anomaly would have been ameliorated or something would have shifted because now the information is out there and I know a lot of people saw that chart – it was widely talked about. I would have expected an effect. But the only effect seems to be it has accelerated to be more egregious than it was before.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Eric Hunsader (36m:14s)

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host Chris Martenson. Increasingly, average Americans are being confronted with the obvious ways in which the presidential election is rigged by the powers that be. What is supposed to be an election is being revealed as a selection. Now to paraphrase George Carlin, it’s a small club and you ain’t in it. To those of us that follow the financial markets closely the level of presidential rigging is both tame and infrequent compared to the level of insider rigging that happens in those financial markets. Back with us today is the man who helped us understand the flash crash of 2010 and who famously and recently won the $750,000 whistle blower award from the SEC. With us today is Eric Hunsader, the founder and owner of Nanex. A company that provides exchange, reporting and delivery of whole market data feeds Eric has more than 25 years of hands on experience developing trading software including high performance trading applications. Eric, it is a real pleasure to have you back. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Eric Hunsader: Thanks for having me. I think I’m going to have to update that because it’s 30 years now.

Chris Martenson: Thirty years. Well it was 25 years I guess the last time we did it. It has been a couple of years. Oh my goodness. Thirty years. Hey, tell us about this whistle blower award. What did you uncover and how quickly did the SEC move on that information?

Eric Hunsader: Oh boy what a story. We uncovered the NYC was knowingly sending data to the direct feed faster than SIP which is illegal. We found it while analyzing the flash crash and then on a whim I decided to look at it again because NYC said they have it fixed. I looked again on July 21st which is just a couple of months after the flash crash and sure enough the problem still existed. I sent it into the SEC and wasn’t really expecting to hear anything. All of a sudden out of the blue September 2012 comes along NYC is fined $5 million for providing data to direct feeds ahead of the SIP. I about fell out of my chair. I had no idea that was going to happen.

Up to this point I didn’t know there was a whistle blower program. It wasn’t until a few months later Eamon Javers over at CNBC told me about it. I went to the website and I filled out a form and sent it into the black hole figuring it was going to be one of those found money things if it ever happened. Fast forward to summer – last year. Last summer I get a call out of the blue from the SEC whistle blower office, “Congratulations. You are eligible for this award.” I said, great. Because it had been a long road where I had said this and the exchange has used the opportunity to kind of paint me as a conspiracy theory person. You know, I was a little upset at the SEC for not correcting that earlier. I said on the phone at the time I said you know I would have done this for a buck if you just said it, told them the data is right.

Anyway, long story short. Another eight months lapse, seven months. It takes forever to get money out of the government. Finally it arrives by wire into my account and they announce something in January. I figured you know, I am not really a whistle blower. I am just somebody who used our expertise – a lot of my customers were harmed by what the NYC was doing. I read it as this is what we do. We take care of our customers. That is why I went public with it. I wanted people to know we were right. And all of the times the Exchange has told a reporter we are conspiracy people or don’t understand market data, one of my favorites, is just wrong. They were wrong. To the tune of $750,000 from the SEC. It was vindication.

Chris Martenson: Vindication. If I understand the story right the NYSE was basically charging a lot of money to various HFT outfits and giving them preferred access that is front running access to critical data from the Exchange that would allow the to do what they do which is basically front run and skim off of everybody. Was that essentially it?

Eric Hunsader: Right. They were selling their direct feed for north of $30,000 a month versus the SIP which is under a thousand dollars a month. They are not buying it because it has that much more rich data. The thing that makes it worth $29,000 more is that it is faster, but that is illegal. Up until this point they deny that that is the case. .Somehow it works. So the exchanges make all their money from their highest paying customers which are the high frequency traders. And the high frequency traders pay the exchanges exorbitant amounts of money to have a slight advantage. That is how the whole system works.

Chris Martenson: Alright, so you supplied this information to them back when? In 2011?

Eric Hunsader: 10. 10.

Chris Martenson: Okay they sort of came up with a ruling when, 2012?

Eric Hunsader: Yes. September 2012.

Chris Martenson: Did anything – did that in fact stop this practice?

Eric Hunsader: No. That’s the thing. Still goes on. It just boggles my mind. I mean we shown the SEC how to use their own Midas system that they paid a high frequency trading firm millions of dollars a year. Could have been a customer of ours for a tenth of that. Put that aside. We showed them how to use that to actually see this difference. They just refused to look. It is just the most amazing thing. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes I don’t think I would believe someone else. But I have seen it. I am telling you. It exists. That is what is happening. They know about it and the market is fair but it is a lot more fair for some than others.

Chris Martenson: A lot more fair for some than others. I want to get into that when I said the markets are rigged is that too strong of a statement?

Eric Hunsader: No. It is absolutely, positively rigged. There is no question about it. It is rigged on many different levels in many different ways, but for example no retail order ever gets to see the light of day of the stock exchange. It is one of the many eye openers that people aren’t really – aren’t pros in the market don’t realize that it is all a big game.

Chris Martenson: You know I am looking at some headlines recently again. It seems that retail investors haven’t just been pulling out of the markets. I have in large measure because I think the system is rigged. How much do you think that we see retail so called mom and pop investors pulling out of the markets because they think the system is just working against them?

Eric Hunsader: I want to clarify something. A lot of people when they say the market is rigged many of them, I won’t say all of them but many of them are saying it is propped up the prices are being propped up by the federal reserve and what not. I don’t subscribe to that. I don’t have any tools to see that. There is no way for me to verify that. I think long term you are better off in the market than not in the market. So that aside you just have to – what I see is when you buy and sell you are always paying more than you should. You are getting – unless you know the ins and outs you are getting ripped off by a small amount every time. Maybe you don’t buy it so often and that is great. I, myself, don’t buy it so often but I do have funds in my 401k and they do and so you are affected by it one way or another. It is costing everybody a percentage return. At the end – when you retire you are going to have less than you should have otherwise.

Chris Martenson: I want to talk about this idea of how the markets might be rigged on a more fundamental basis. Using some of your own data I was really taken with a chart that broke down by hour how US stock futures performed or how much of the gain in the overall S&P could be explained when we looked at which hour of the day was involved. It turns out 2:00 am is very important to US equity futures and the US equity market in general. Can you explain why is that? What is so important about 2:00 in the morning?

Eric Hunsader: Every once in a while I do look at fundamental things longer term and when I did that study I had to verify it many different ties, many different ways because I just didn’t believe it. Basically between 2 and 3:00 am you buy at 2:00 am and sell at 3:00 am you would have captured half of the gains and none of the draw down since 2005 which is just unbelievable that it would have that kind of weight. You would expect every hour a long period of time to be equal. It should be randomly equal. Certainly not that early morning hours really stands out and I don’t have an answer. The only things I can think of is before Europe opens and maybe people who have squirreled their money away in the Cayman Islands are putting it to work at that time. I don’t know. ___[00:11:01] answer.

Chris Martenson: It strikes me that is one of the thinnest market hours and of course if you are going to try and move a price you would want a thin not a thick market. It is one area that one of the analysts at my site has done through is looking at gold and silver and noting certain trading patterns and random number of algorithms to sort of parse through the data and discover that even with something highly volatile like natural gas when you sum out of all its moves over time you get to zero which makes sense, right? And this is true for a lot of commodities but not for silver. There was a very, very noticeable draw down that was not explained. It did not wash away. It just got worse over time. So somebody has discovered a way mostly using the overnight time slots to drive prices down in whatever mechanism they are using. They do it over and over again. Eric my question is somebody who looks at the markets as closely as you do I would have thought that something like 2:00 am for the US stock futures with the repeated smack downs in silver that would get competed away over time somehow.

Eric Hunsader: It should. It should. I would have thought after I first published that chart last August I would have thought it would have been ameliorated or something would have shifted because now the information is out there and people are going to – I know a lot of people saw that chart and there was – it was widely talked about. I would have expected an effect. The effect seems to be it has accelerated to be more pronounced than it was before. You know there is a couple of other oddities like for exampel4 between 3:30 and 3:45 if you compare that 15 minutes with the next 15 minutes 3:45 and 4:00 pm polar opposites over long periods of time. And that again is also a fascinating thing that has come out of the data that I hadn’t looked at before that tis more of a fundamental nature. I don’t know the reason for that.

Chris Martenson: Is this possibility the ecosystem of algorithms that are now dominant in the marketplace that somehow this might just be an emergent property of all the coding that has happened and so because these are trend following and pattern spotting algorithms in many cases they do it because everybody else is doing it?

Eric Hunsader: It’s possible. Sure it’s possible.

Chris Martenson: Well it sure sticks out. You had a rule of thumb that sticks out for me. The more obfuscated your fill the more you got screwed. What did you mean by that?

Eric Hunsader: This is fascinating this whole discussion – this whole IEX application process just so highlights how the SEC, Securities and Exchange Commissions is not really there for – their missions statement is for the average investor for capital formation blah, blah, blah. These guys are listening straight to whatever Citadel tells them. Whatever Hudson River Trading tells them they are doing regardless of what is in the regulations. We saw them do this with the whole IEX application and not only did they not give – grant IEX and exchange status but they want to table it and they want to talk about how fast is too fast in the marketplace and – because this all came down to 350 millionth of a second delay that was essentially going to protect an investor’s order.

When you go to a large order in the market and you have to go to multiple exchanges what happens is it goes to one exchange. As soon as that executes high frequency traders and their expensive data feeds see it and they change and front run you before your market order gets to one of these other exchanges. So this 350 microsecond delay was not going to let the high frequency traders able to see the signal and front run your order. That is what the whole controversy is about. Now they are trying to say well 350 micro seconds you can’t delay. That takes too long. At the same exact time is on your brokerage statement I invite you to look at your last trading the brokerage statement and you look at the time stamp for that trade execution and you tell me what that resolution is. Is it down to millionths of a second? Is it milliseconds or thousands or is it seconds or is it minutes or in some cases a day? Sometime today you bought this stock at this price. The thing is if you had those time stamps that said at this millionth of a second today you bought or sold a stock you can take that information to a third party. You can say you got a fair price or you didn’t get a fair price. If you can do that then these farms, these internalizers you take all the retail orders would now have to compete in the capitalist mode where they can’t hide anymore what is going on. One thing a lot of people don’t realize is in one second of time the price of a stock will and actually does change quite a bit in one second. And when your time stamp resolution says well some time in this minute you bought it they can sell you with any price that they can get away with. In that period of time. I guarantee you it is not going to be the best price for you.

Chris Martenson: Oddly, somehow that won’t be true.

Eric Hunsader: I’m not big on rules. I am big on transparency and one of the ways to get that transparency is to require all stock trade executions – on your statement it should have high resolution time. It can’t be punched to the minute or even the second. Now maybe you as an individual trader don’t really care about that. However, you wouldn’t be able to – maybe you can’t do anything with it but you could again go to a third party and say did I get the correct price for this. And with that information that third party could tell you that. Without that information it is hard to say.

Chris Martenson: This is all a super fascinating story. I have been following it closely since Michael Louis came out with the flash boys and all of that and Brad Katsiyama as one of the stars of that story. He was going to start this IEX exchange which was going to compete with all these other ones you are talking about. If I remember the story right they were going to just take fiber and spool it up in a shoebox so it would have the certain latency in the signal that would then protect the order flow from being front run. I just noticed in the New York Times they just noted this I am reading here, “Among the objectors to this new exchange is the New York Stock Exchange which would face a new competitor in IEX if it received approval from regulators. In a letter written last November a big board official said IEX as proposed would be an unfair, complex and opaque exchange and so it was striking last month when the big board asked the SEC to let it imitate IEX by adopting a new trade type based on a technology invented by IEX.”

Eric Hunsader: Yea, it is just amazing.

Chris Martenson: Is that as bad as it sounds?

Eric Hunsader: It is. It is. It is just – it is so hard to believe that these guys are actually – I think they are so used to getting away with it they just don’t realize the average person if they understood it are going to feel revulsion towards this kind of thing. I mean certainly not an American thing to do to use the regulator as a way of getting past your competitor. Well, actually what is fascinating maybe the New York Times didn’t mention this – a month and a half ago the NYSE came out and big picture of the CEO, NYSE calls IEX’s plan un-American. You look at that and shake your head. Like, wow.

Chris Martenson: Wow so yea to summarize they are calling IEX unfair, complex, opaque, un-American and then they are saying while you are blocking them we would love to emulate them so we can steal their business while they are getting off the ground. Is that –

Eric Hunsader: That is accurate. That is quite accurate to what is going on.

Chris Martenson: Well, yea that is just – again, for me as somebody who is not thankfully up to my eyeballs in Wall Street every day the more I hear these stories, Eric, the more faith I lose in the whole system as anything even remotely worth trusting.

Eric Hunsader: Yea. That is kind of how I feel too. I have learned not to believe anything written in the Wall Street Journal or Reuters or Bloomberg. Because of that because I have seen them actually say things that are incorrect and they know they are incorrect because I have talked to the reporter about it. I now look at the other news stories with the same lens and you just wonder how common it is.

Chris Martenson: Well, unfortunately in my experience it is common across all sorts of different sectors geo politics, you name it. We had other big news come out today which was the Goldman Sachs paying up a $5 billion fine for mortgage fraud. I noted again zero criminal indictments one more time.

Eric Hunsader: Isn’t that amazing?

Chris Martenson: Yea. After watching the other Michael Louis, The Big Short based on his book, I can’t help but feel that Goldman didn’t just get off life here but scot free. I know they paid a few billion and everything. That hurt somebody, somewhere. Mainly shareholders. Again, what they did was just astonishingly, brazenly, illegal.

Eric Hunsader: Yes. This is true. What is fascinating is five days ago Krugman did a piece, an op ed in the New York Times saying the big banks essentially didn’t do anything bad. It was these little players. That was just before the Wells Fargo major fine last Saturday and then Goldman’s fine. Literally just days before. You would have to be out to lunch to write something like that. It is just – people don’t really read between the lines and educate themselves. They just believe what is in the news they are going to be misguided no doubt.

Chris Martenson: What is the old saying? If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, but if you do you are misinformed?

Eric Hunsader: Never heard that one.

Chris Martenson: I think it was Mark Twain. So it is maybe nothing new under the sun, but from my perspective I am sitting here watching all these hijinks. I am watching central banks try and go into negative interest rate territory. They are talking about helicopter drops of money now. Ben Bernanke is opining on that. It is all starting to feel a little crazy to me. It feels like we have got this nutty ecosystem of high frequency computers that are just literally out of regulatory grasp and control maybe even just on an intellectual level. They don’t know what is really happening there. If anybody does really fully, completely. And on the other side we have central banks pushing us into brand new territory. Is it at all wrong to be concerned about another flash crash or something like that here?

Eric Hunsader: Well, you know the flash crashes will now be limited to five or 10% like we saw on August 24th. I personally think when you get a big CAP stock that suddenly you know reprices 5% then returns is not a good thing for the markets. I think you can comfortably not have to put in stops anymore. In fact, I would kind of recommend you don’t use stops because if your stop is 4.99% away and limit up, limit down levels are right below you you are in danger because you are probably going to get stomped out and it is going to ricochet right back.

All these band aids, all these things that they have had to aid. They discourage you from using margin orders for example. To me I think that is one of the signs that you don’t have a functioning when a margin order is dangerous or at least that is what they say. Flash crashes yea we are definitely going to keep passing these events. They are going to be contained but again the flash crash didn’t go down more than 10% and back. So the band aids they got in place essentially will limit it to half of that. Still, I think it is – we could do better.

Chris Martenson: And how would we go about doing better given that the SEC is showing very little appetite for actually getting in here and regulating everything from my perspective.

Eric Hunsader: All they have to do is let IEX be an exchange. I think that is one of the free market solutions that will help self correct things. One of the problems is the exchanges have legal immunity. I will say that again.

Chris Martenson: What do you mean?

Eric Hunsader: Like they can – they can do something that a normal business would get sued for like rip you off. Like, for example charge $500 million a year for the SIP which is the consolidated feed and not give them real time prices which they are required to do. And if you try to sue them they will say oh we have legal immunity. The judge will say that’s right they do because they are an SRO, self regulating organization. That is one of the mechanisms to self correct in a capitalist society is that legal action. You got rules and this guy is not following the rules. Well how do you fix that? You have to have a regulator come in and do their job which obviously is not happening or legal process will fix that. Or you could have a competitor come in and offer a better service and not do that. The SEC is in control of all these things because they are the ones that should be telling the exchanges to behave themselves. They are the ones you have to go to create a competing exchange. We are seeing what happens there. There is no real mechanism here to self correct. If IEX becomes an exchange they are now the first ones who are going to be – who are not going to tolerate a lot of the crap that is going on that they will be able to see is an exchange and they will be able to do something about.

Chris Martenson: And presumably take a lot of business from the established players.

Eric Hunsader: I would think they would. Yes.

Chris Martenson: Of the people I have talked to it talks like endowments, pensions, institutional funds those who have interest in buying and selling large blocks they just don’t like having their pockets picked every step of the way. I would imagine they would be some natural –

Eric Hunsader: Sure every – IEX had over 300 comment letters on the process. All of them – every one except for Citadel, Hudson River Trading and the existing exchanges wanted IEX to become an exchange including Norges which is the largest fund in the world. They managing Norway’s wealth fund. Many teacher’s retirement funds in the Untied States. Big names. T. Rowe Price. Big names came out. Even Virtue Financial who used to be one of the good guys out there all wanted IEX to be an exchange to get approval. Even Goldman Sachs did. Yea, there is an overwhelming – if you drew it out the number of people who are for IEX versus against it is just amazing how a small handful of people are controlling the whole process.

Chris Martenson: And who would that be? You mentioned like the Citadel and other big players like that. I assume there are some big entrenched players that have I don’t know - -is this a revolving door situation?

Eric Hunsader: Yea, it is existing exchanges and the SEC is actually being controlled by senate banking and finance and house ways and means. That is where they get their marching orders from. Those guys are getting political donations. They are bamboozled. They don’t understand why this is so important. It is so easy to bamboozle them. I think the bottom line is if you want me to keep funding your campaign, Senator.

Chris Martenson: Yea. Well, as I look across the landscape I see all sorts of crazy stop running price manipulation just things like bids getting pulled and volume disappearing and crazy stuff. I see it in the oil market. I see it all kinds of places. I am wondering are there any corners or crevices of the market places that haven’t been taken over by these algorithms that remain relatively free and fair?

Eric Hunsader: I don’t think so. No.

Chris Martenson: Even the treasury market seems to have gotten its –

Eric Hunsader: Oh absolutely. Treasury market is totally incessant. I got to see the Fed analysis. This is fascinating little story. It was the treasury flash crash October 15th, 2014 which was every bit as bad as the stock market flash crash except it was in treasuries. The federal reserve wanted to get to the bottom of it. They got people together to analyze data and they had to break them into two teams – one team got to look at the cash market trading data and the other team got to look at the audit trail data from the CME which told who was buying this order. They weren’t allowed – one team wasn’t allowed to see the other data set.

Chris Martenson: Okay.

Eric Hunsader: This is the Federal Reserve. It is like well if you want to analyze this properly because I had talked to them about this. If you want to analyze it properly you have to look at both sides because that is what is going on here. You got to see how the cash and the futures relate. But they were specifically not allowed. People on the team that looked at the treasury data were not allowed to see the cash market data and vice versa. This is data that is extremely hard to get because it is audit trail level. Shows who is behind each trade or order. I got to see some of the stats from the cash side. It is just amazing the percentage of the watched trading going on. Putting in fake orders and the level of spoofing, the level of just bad acting happening.

Chris Martenson: By certain I know you can’t reveal much but were there certain bad actors?

Know ho

Eric Hunsader: Yes, there were. I actually had a list of them. I can’t remember or I would actually tell you who they were. I probably mentioned a name or two already that were these actors they are the same names everywhere else. They were just it is once again it was the top 10 of them pull away the lion’s share of the profits and they totally dominate that market.

Chris Martenson: Yea, how do we summarize all this. Perhaps if we had an outrage meter going from a sedate 1 to an apoplectic 10 where should we be?

Eric Hunsader: I have been at apoplectic for so long I am just.

Chris Martenson: That is your new 1?

Eric Hunsader: I am spent. Nothing would surprise me anymore. I really honestly don’t know how this is going to get corrected. I know it can’t continue.

Chris Martenson: Why not?

Eric Hunsader: Because eventually – eventually the guys who are in control now – the small group will eventually whittle down to even smaller. I think that is at the point in time when the senators are going to have enough or somebody is going to get outed. Or something is going to get leaked that is so damning that it finally gets cleaned up.

Chris Martenson: Perhaps that is part of the fear of having one of these potential presidential outsiders actually come into the hen house as it were.

Eric Hunsader: That is what it looks like to me. It is pretty amazing to see how the politics is working there and relating it to what I know what goes on on Wall Street. Lots of parallels there. It is the illusion that you have control. That the citizen has the say and is listened to – it is an illusion though. You will believe that. And if you don’t believe it you will be tagged a nut. I really want to – I’m dying to see how the Republicans handle the monster that they have got. I just don’t know how they are going to resolve it.

Chris Martenson: Well it is very interesting. I brought that up because it feels like a parallel. It feels like to me the vibe of the country is that people are starting to understand the degree to which certain things have been rigged. The Federal Reserve comes out. Janet does her friendly grandmother act and pretends like they had no idea that granny was going to get thrown under the bus or that savers really actually are being hurt in this story or any of that. They know perfectly well what they are doing and the jig is about up on what they have attempted. It has hurt a lot of people except it has also helped a very, very small number of people and that is getting really hard to ignore and overlook anymore.

Eric Hunsader: It is. I don’t think – people never revolt over Wall Street ripping them off. It is definitely more than one straw on that proverbial camel’s back that you know, if they – people perceive that the elections are truly rigged that might be enough. That plus other things going on that they see is enough to cause a different reaction than otherwise.

Chris Martenson: I think that is certainly I won’t say at risk. I think it will be a good thing to have a little look at the band aid ripped off. Get a little oxygen and light in there for a while because this system of control, of rigging in favor force a few against the many is I just think fully been revealed and exemplified by what you have been doing. And certainly you have opened my eyes to the degree to which these people can do what they do. It is nothing personal. It is just human incentives. Humans respond to incentives. And if people can game a system they game a system. That is the nature of all of human existence. Nothing really new under the sun here but boy the tools they have got at their disposal now are just I can’t even keep up with it. Ten years ago I had some sense of what was going on. Now it is I am not really clear what is happening anymore. I got to confess.

Eric Hunsader: Right.

Chris Martenson: Thank you so much for your exposing all of that and helping us understand it and stay abreast. And I am glad that you do. I follow you on Twitter most closely that is @NanexLLC you got a website Nanex.net is there any other way that somebody can or should follow you?

Eric Hunsader: I actually post commentary on my Twitter feed. I find it is just easier to reach lots of people that way.

Chris Martenson: It is a great way and you do a wonderful job keeping us up to date there. Again @NanexLLC you will get there NANEXLLC. Eric, thanks so much for your time today and congratulations on the whistle blower award, which you almost didn’t know you were entitled to.

Eric Hunsader: Yea. Thank you, Chris.

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davefairtex's picture
davefairtex
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 3 2008
Posts: 5408
a feed guy

When I was listening to him talk, I thought to myself, "he sounds technical."  Linked in says: yep, software engineering background.  His company is small, so he's still probably involved in development.

Long ago, part of my job was writing data feed handlers; I would interface with places like Nanex to take in data from the outside world and then present it to traders.  I did more of the data handling, and less of the presentation.  So I'm quite familiar with what his company produces (gee, data requirements sure have increased), and what sorts of information he has access to.

Nanex makes a ticker plant, and that is a product where you are required to focus on speed; speed is everything for a ticker plant vendor because slow data = lost money for your customer = you get thrown out.  In the old days, traders would put displays from different vendors side by side and if one was noticeably behind the other, the abuse the slow vendor received was instant.  "We're throwing you guys out!"  So it makes sense he is keenly aware of the microsecond-level stuff because that's the bread and butter of his business.

His response with all this stuff is pretty much the same as mine would have been: dig into the data, and see what it tells me.  But my data is a pale shadow compared to what he has access to.

Hats off to him for taking a stand and being one of the good guys.

Did not realize the exchanges had legal immunity.  Nor did I realize that my little retail trades never made it to the exchange, although that does make sense.  Its wrong, of course, but those big players wouldn't want a couple of retail traders swapping stock (or options) without them getting to snag their penny.

As a former feed guy, the concept of an exchange selling a faster data feed for a premium so that some select set of participants can front-run everyone else is just so dreadfully unfair.  Back in the day, that would simply have been unthinkable.  Given the amount of money on the outside - pension funds, mutual funds, etc - one wonders just how such a situation can remain in place.  The money that the penny-stealers make must be immense, and the business model seems based entirely upon regulatory capture and bought politicians.  That's not a particularly safe platform; if the system were ever to be cleaned up, they'd all be swept away like leaves in a strong breeze.

IEX is an existential threat - it makes sense that they'll move heaven and earth to try and make sure it never sees the light of day.

From a technical standpoint, it would take very little time to clean this whole mess up, and to put an end to all this theft.  But its not a technical problem, its a corruption problem.  Like everything else these days.  Peak corruption, driven by money in politics.

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 2 2010
Posts: 1447
Legal Immunity for Exchanges?

Even if the Exchange knowing abets criminal activity it still cannot be prosecuted?  If so, then no surprise everything is rigged and it ain't going to get better.   Until Mother Nature fixes it, that is.

RoseHip's picture
RoseHip
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 5 2013
Posts: 150
Upcycle!

How can things become more hyper connected than HFTing? How could what we've learned of HFTing and peak business cycles benefit society? Could we redirect the amazing ability of HFTing's money gatherings and fund the switch from fossil fuels to the alternatives?

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 465
Not Perrsonal

"And certainly you have opened my eyes to the degree to which these people can do what they do. It is nothing personal. It is just human incentives. Humans respond to incentives. And if people can game a system they game a system. That is the nature of all of human existence. Nothing really new under the sun here but boy the tools they have got at their disposal now are just I can’t even keep up with it."

Perhaps it wasn't personal to separate King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antonette's heads from their body.  The peasants I understand got tired of a monarchy and took steps to create change.  Consider this -

"Like the American Revolution before it, the French Revolution was influenced by Enlightenment ideals, particularly the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals and at times degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people.

It becomes personal if your the one being stolen from, or affected by the corruption, or are harmed by it, or have to watch it, or can't put food on the table, or find a job and on, and on, and on.

Of course today with Food Stamps, digital entertainment, and legal pot who and when would people get out of their LazyBoy and make a fuss?

 

 

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: May 4 2014
Posts: 569
Hey, Johann Tetzel; Indulgences anyone?

Gleaned from the internet highway  - from  Elizabeth Warren's, afterward in A Fighting Chance,:in discussion with Jamie Dimon

"When the conversation turned to financial regulation and Dimon began complaining about all the burdensome rules his bank had to follow, I finally interrupted. I was polite, but definite. No, I didn’t think the biggest banks were overregulated. In fact, I couldn’t believe he was complaining about regulatory constraints less than a year after his bank had lost billions in the infamous London Whale high-risk trading episode. I said I thought the banks were still taking on too much risk and that they seemed to believe the taxpayers would bail them out — again — if something went wrong.

Our exchange heated up quickly. By the time we got to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we weren’t quite shouting, but we were definitely raising our voices. At this point — early in 2013 — Rich Cordray was still serving as director of the consumer agency under a recess appointment; he hadn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate, which meant that the agency was vulnerable to legal challenges over its work. Dimon told me what he thought it would take to get Congress to confirm a director, terms that included gutting the agency’s power to regulate banks like his. By this point I was furious. Dodd-Frank had created default provisions that would automatically go into effect if there was no confirmed director, and his bank was almost certainly not in compliance with the those rules. I told him that if that happened, “I think you guys are breaking the law.”

Suddenly Dimon got quiet. He leaned back and slowly smiled. “So hit me with a fine. We can afford it.”

 

kc567's picture
kc567
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 20 2016
Posts: 1
trading .....

I am in Canada, trading within my retirement funds online (at my own banks  website) ....been doing this since the 90's.

I found just about every time i put a stop limit sale on a stock i owned, but was concerned about, it would usually drop to that limit, sell, then continue on and have a nice UP day. I had the distinct impression someone saw a potential sell of my stock at low price, while it was on the move up, and intervened.

After a few years of this i just bought or sold at market and assumed i was mistaken, ignorant or unlucky with stop limits.

It was very interesting to hear this interview (and wonder). 

kc

 

Snydeman's picture
Snydeman
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2013
Posts: 505
AKGrannyWGrit wrote:Of
AKGrannyWGrit wrote:

Of course today with Food Stamps, digital entertainment, and legal pot who and when would people get out of their LazyBoy and make a fuss?

The same reason they always begin revolts; when they can not, or become anxious over whether they can or can not, feed themselves and their families. You are already seeing the shift towards revolutionary upheaval beginning. If the fundamental underlying causes of the destruction of the middle class in the United States are not addressed, that fear and anxiety will continue to grow. If you think Trump is scary, wait until you see who comes afterwards in an election cycle or two if things aren't fixed or get worse. 

lambertad's picture
lambertad
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2013
Posts: 179
Fascinating Documentary

I founds this documentary about HFTs on YouTube. The exchanges telling HFTs what to put in their order code to skip to the front of the line adds another layer onto this interview. Super interesting stuff, thanks for getting Eric on for an interview. 

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