This is the first installment in a series of HFT War Stories, submitted anonymously by high frequency and algorithmic traders highlighting the perils of their profession. Today we look at a $2 Billion near miss that never made the news. The public only hears about these types of SNAFUs if they blow up a firm. Hundreds more go unnoticed by anyone but the traders who lived through them.
Goldman FX Trader Fired For Participating In Currency-Rigging Cartel Even As Goldman Avoids Any ChargesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/18/2014 15:35 -0500
Moments ago the WSJ reported that Goldman Sachs - which managed to go unscathed in the recent currency market rigging settlement - just fired a currencies trader who "allegedly was involved with the misconduct before he joined the firm." So how is it possible that Goldman, which housed one of "The Cartel's" (or was it Bandits?) riggers, was never busted in the first place? Because apparently Goldman had no clue of his impeccable FX-rigging chat room credentials when it hired him from HSBC back in 2012, credentials which he allegedly never again used while employed by Goldman because the moment he walked through the door at 200 West, he was a changed man, doing merely god's work and nobody else's.
"It's important to remember that a little gold goes a long way. If you had 5-10% allocation in your portfolio from 2000 to 2010, you wouldn't have suffered a lost decade" ... “I believe that now is a good time to take advantage of negative short-term trading sentiment,” Wickwire of Fidelity Investments said.
We finally have the answer, courtesy of the FCA's partial and very much selective disclosure of FX rigging findings by "The Cartel", the "Bandits" and so on, as part of its wrist-slapping settlement, just how the big boys make millions in FX on every single fix. Hopefully one day the regulators, who are as corrupt and conflicted as the banks they quote-unquote police, will reveal all the documents in their possession and let the public decide what is important and what isn't. But in the meantime, for all those curious just why the Too Big To Fail are also Too Big To Prosecute, here is the blow by blow.
Rarely are we speechless, but this occasion, when UBS made $513,000 from just one fix, as the FCA's complaint against the criminal Swiss bank reveals, is the rare exception. "In the immediate aftermath of the ECB fix, UBS was congratulated on the success of its trading by Firms A, B and C (“hes sat back in his chaoir [sic]…feet on desk…announcing to desk…thats why i got the bonus pool” and “yeah made most peoples year”)."
The bottom line: $513,000 from one trade.
"FINMA has also instructed UBS to limit bonuses for traders of foreign exchange and precious metals to 200 percent of their base salary for two years."
The horror, the horror.
Another day, another HFT firm busted for manipulating the market. Today's participant: Athena Capital, which did what every other algorithmic, HFT firm does - rig the market of course, but at least it had a sense of humor about it: Athena called the market-rigging algorithm that "manipulated the closing prices of tens of thousands of stocks during the final seconds of almost every trading day during the Relevant Period" by the very amusing name "Gravy." But remember: HFTs are really your friend - they just provide liquidity and stuff.
Gold bullion in Singapore climbed $9.29 to $1230.29 and gold was on track for a gain of almost 0.8% for the week prior to concentrated and continual selling in London and then on the COMEX pushed gold lower. Trading action had all the hallmarks of the Gold Anti Trust Action Committee's (GATA) 'gold cartel' and their determination to keep gold prices capped and "animal spirits" low in the gold market.
As regular readers are well aware, when it comes to "more than arms length" equity market intervention in New Normal markets, the New York Fed's preferred "intermediary" of choice to, how should one say, boost investor sentiment aka "protect from a plunge", is none other than Chicago HFT powerhouse, Citadel. Yet one question had remained unanswered: just how does Citadel manipulated stocks? We now know the answer, and perhaps more importantly, it also links in to the true culprit behind the May 2010 Flash Crash, no not Waddell & Reed, but quote stuffing. Most importantly, the revelation that for Citadel quote stuffing is not just some byproduct of some "innocuous" HFT strategy, is that none other than the Nasdaq has now stated on the record, that the most leveraged hedge fund (at 9x regulatory to net assets), and the third largest after Bridgewater and Millennium, used quote stuffing as a "trading strategy."
The numbers out last night were once again largely on the weak side of disappointing, with very little reaction and even less of an intuitive reaction. As Bloomberg’s Richard Breslow writes, this is the downside of everyone having the same positions. Simply put, we've been trained to catch the falling knife by the CBs, one of those trading strategies that will work until it doesn’t and when the knife slips you will really have a taper tantrum.
The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has been long viewed as one of the most corrupt of American institutions – and that’s saying a lot... when a retiring judge accuses the other remaining judge of being a total bought and paid for Wall Street crony, you know something is wrong. And sure enough, today we learn the CFTC will impose a meager $650,000 fine on JP Morgan, despite years of warnings about fraudulent data reports. You gotta love American justice. In the same week that an NYPD officer’s illegal and fatal chokehold was ruled a homicide (incredibly the man who shot the video has now been arrested), JP Morgan gets off with another slap on the wrist. As Glenn Greenwald noted, it’s Liberty and Justice for Some.
The gold price manipulation scheme will go down as the biggest financial market scandal in US history for numerous reasons. They include the destruction of the free market system in the United States.
At some point there is going to be a sea change in bonds. The question is does the last week in July finally cause the Sea-Change in Bonds?
Despite a full court press of PR to confirm HFT firms are friends of retail investors and do no wrong; the SEC, it appears, sees it differently. While Mary White has confidently explained the market is not rigged, her agency is now actively seeking tips, complaints, or referrals that show, as The Chicago Tribune reports, evidence of abuse of order types, as well as traditional forms of abusive trading like "layering" or "spoofing" and other issues relating to high-frequency trading that might be violations of the law. Here are the 10 firms (including poster child holy-grail trader Virtu Financial) that the SEC is probing... can you spot the oddly missing one...
First it was gold, now it is HFT - poor Barclays just can't get away with any market rigging crime these days: "In sum, Barclays’ courting of high frequency traders, and its willingness to falsify the extent of high frequency trading activity in its dark pool, was contrary to Barclays’ representations to clients that Barclays operated with “transparency” and provided a safe venue in which to trade. As described by one former senior Barclays Director: “there was a lot going on in the dark pool that was not in the best interests of clients. The practice of almost ensuring that every counterparty would be a high frequency firm, it seems to me that that wouldn’t be in the best interest of their clients . . . It’s almost like they are building a car and saying it has an airbag and there is no airbag or brakes.”