Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
By Michael Lewis
If you haven’t read this book by now then you have definitely heard of it and like I was, probably very eager to get your hands and a copy and decide which side of the polarising fence you’re on – Lewis’s or Wall Street’s.
This alleged expose was rumoured to have sparked an FBI investigation which began one day after publication. Many dismiss this as sheer coincidence, whereas others are convinced that Lewis has uncovered one of the postmodern world’s fundamental truths – 1% of the world control the wealth which the other 99% have to work for and it’s by intricate design.
Lewis claims to have inside knowledge on what is known as High-Frequency Trading (HFT), a system which can be manipulated by individual traders who choose to utilise information which is available to them before their peers – a preview if you will. Bearing in mind the contentious practice of whistle-bowing, there is not one High-Frequency Trader who is quoted in the book or studied at all by Lewis to our knowledge. This fact fuels talk of the author’s uninformed position and makes it easy for some to brand Flash Boys as mere sensationalism.
An essential read for traders as well as social commentators and economists alike, this is the book that Chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Mary-Jo White was forced to address before Congress, who questioned Lewis’ stance on ‘the market’ being ‘rigged’.
A best-seller in the American national charts, this book is has been commented on by nearly all sections of industry and media; an experience few Financial writers enjoy. Lewis has turned a serious subject into an entertaining piece that has readers of all backgrounds eating out of his hand, in keeping with the scandalous portrayal of trading in star Leonardo Di Caprio’s Wolf of Wall Street movie.
Chapter 6 comes with a particularly inflammatory title, How to Take Billions from Wall Street; feeding in to the hype circus around the release. Whether hype circus or factual, Lewis makes it clear from the outset that he is there to guide us through some extremely suspect-looking circumstances.
The introduction to Flash Boys, Windows on the World begins with an overview of the arrest of a high-profile Goldman Sachs employee that we’ve all heard of and how his detention was highly unjust.
Other chapters include;
- Chapter 1: Hidden in Plain Sight
- Chapter 2: Brad’s Problem
- Chapter 3: Ronan’s Problem
- Chapter 4: Tracking the Predator
- Chapter 5: Putting a Face on HFT.
These chapter titles let the reader know clearly what Lewis’ stance is whilst inviting us to read more. Those who are from a Finance background may be keen for more detail and direct evidence, however this is certainly a mass market book so too much of the desired jargon may suffocate the accessibility of Flash Boys.
An enjoyable read no matter what your connection with trading and certainly a read is the only way to pick a side for yourself.
Review by Andrea Photiou