- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (28 May 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141981032
- ISBN-13: 978-0141981031
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
- Customer Reviews: 3,217 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #43,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Flash Boys Paperback – 28 May 2015
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Dazzling... guaranteed to make blood boil... riveting -- Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Enthralling -- John Naughton, Observer
Michael Lewis knows how to tell a story, Vanity Fair
This book has the potential to spark a cultural uprising . . . More than five years on from the Lehman collapse, Lewis has lit the touch paper on the mother of all debates about Wall Street and global finance -- Liam Halligan, Spectator
Compelling, a great yarn from beginning to end -- Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
When the stories of our times are told, there will be no more seminal documents than the books of Michael Lewis, Guardian
Who knew high-frequency trading was such a sexy subject?, Bloomberg Business Week
Michael Lewis is one of the premier chroniclers of our age, Huffington Post
Michael Lewis is a genius, and his book will give high-frequency trading a much-needed turn under the microscope -- Kevin Roose, New York Magazine
About the Author
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So says Lewis at the very end of this book. This is the story of a small group of people working on, or connected with Wall Street, who identify a problem whereby the markets were colluding to work against the interests of their clients and customers. I have heard & read of the negative impact of high frequency trading on the stock market but never really had a grasp on how it worked. This book has answered that question. The explanation is in one sense simple, although complex at the same time. I suspect that some will find it a bit too technical but this isn't a book aimed at those in the markets who would no doubt find it all a bit basic. Once again, you think you have heard it all about the murky world of investment banking, and yet again you find more to demonstrate that many banking employees lack any moral compass and act in their own best interests (in this case those best interests may have conflicted with their employer's best interests).
The main narrative follows a Canadian banker as he tries to get to grips with what was going on and his eventual solution - the creation of a trading exchange (a recognised public exchange since the middle of 2016). It is a gripping tale, told almost in a novelistic way as it concentrates on a small number of characters with their parts to play. I was also more than a little staggered to find that Goldman Sachs, more usually the villain of the piece, comes out on the 'good' side - fear of market volatility and reputational damage seemingly contributing to their decision to trade via the new exchange (IEX) in a more transparent manner.
The book has had plenty of critics and there are those who will defend high frequency trading, which inserts an unnecessary intermediary that is willing to pay to play on the public and private (Bank/broker) exchanges. One argument attempted was that HFT only affected rich hedge funders - conveniently ignoring the fund managers who run pension schemes, unit trust funds, etc that are the bedrock of investing for middle America (and middle Europe too). When the new exchange opened one rather dim-witted manager at a money manager advised people to avoid the new exchange as she believed it had inherent conflicts of interest (oh, the irony!). It just so happened that said money manager managed the pension fund of IEX - although not for long after the stupid press release.
Lewis wrote the book because he admired the disruptors. We should admire them too for revealing what they discovered to change the game more in investors's favour.
The book focuses on a group of people, with Brad Katsuyama perhaps the protagonist, who have through their work uncovered a lot about high frequency trading for the general public, as well as created a new exchange - the IEX - helping to protect investors from the predatory behaviour of HFTs. While the latter were a fully legal development, exploiting loopholes in well meaning legislation, one does at times wonder to what extent legislation is simply written with such and similar loopholes built in. Hence a case of unintended consequences if one is generous.
The author manages a well judged balance of uncovering and presenting facts, without being judgmental of the players - he does allow his protagonists to voice their opinion but does not villify or crucify anyone as such.
I guess the book may be of a slightly lesser interest than The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine to the general public, as fewer people will have suffered badly from the dynamics of HFT (big investors would but then they get less compassion on Main Street) but it will be equally easy to understand and quite useful to piece together a more comprehensive understanding of trading activities for the uninitiated.
In many cases, the investment bankers, whose enormous salaries are justified on the basis of the need for the "best", for their experience, for their expertise, have no understanding of what is going on but do know that there is money sloshing about and that they want to get their snouts in the trough before it is all gobbled up.
Each element of the scams is explained through clear, simple examples, accessible by the general readership and not just by finance specialists.
The central, true story is about a group of people coming together to try, apparently successfully, to return some honesty and fairness to the American stock market and the trials and tribulations they face in the process and it reads something like a well plotted and pacey thriller.
I see that one of the other reviewers felt outraged by the story; sad to say, I did not feel outrage, just accepting it as the way of things - it is just one more set of finance sector scandals in a long line of scandals and will be superseded by the next one....and the next one...
Looking forward to reading more from Michael Lewis.
This book tells us what happens in the shady world of the U.S. stock market, yet this also what happens in every other market. Investors are being robbed by the financial institutions they trust and the High Frequency Traders who are waiting to screw you over.
Why don't the big banks protect you? That's because they earn from the HFT's. Everyone is out to nibble away at your trades and those of the large pension, hedge and mutual funds that invest our money in the markets.
Yet this is also the story of some guys who saw what was wrong and did something about it. A group of people who put the concerns of the investor above their own interest and even took large cuts in income to do something to help those being ripped off.
Don't believe all the day trading hype either, they get to earn even more money off you. They charge you to trade and then take money from HFT's who make money off you as well.