Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Was Last Week's Market Crash a Direct Attack By Financial Terrorists?
In a market where 70 percent of all trades are executed by computer algorithms via High Frequency Trading, Goldman Sachs has the power to make the market crash or rise at will.
Last week, the U.S. stock market suffered the greatest sudden drop in its history, for reasons that nobody on Wall Street can seem to decipher. But of all the explanations being examined—a tech glitch, Greek debt worries and fraud have all been discussed--the most troubling is not being given sufficient attention.
Coming on the very day that Congress considered two key financial reforms, the timing of the "flash crash" raises concerns that Wall Street is resorting to extreme tactics in its efforts to intimidate politicians who want to rein in the capital markets casino. Thursday's market plunge could have been an act of financial terrorism. Wall Street has both the motive and the means: Goldman Sachs, which is currently under investigation for a very different kind of fraud, has the trading power to make just such a market crash occur, and has much to lose from financial reforms moving through Congress.
On Thursday afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 700 points in about 10 minutes. A few hours later, top Democratic negotiators reached a compromise with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, over a plan to audit the Federal Reserve's secret bailout operations. The Fed has pumped nearly $4.3 trillion in bailout funds into the banking system since the onset of the crisis, and we know almost nothing about that money. The "Audit The Fed" amendment would finally tell the public the full extent of Wall Street's bailout operations.
Later Thursday night, Congress voted on—and rejected—an amendment that would have forced the break-up of the six largest U.S. financial behemoths into banks that can fail without wrecking the economy. Goldman Sachs would have been one of those six banks. Meanwhile, riots in Greece and inaction from the European Central Bank raised the possibility of major trouble for our financial titans across the pond.
This amalgamation of events is eerily similar to what took place on Sept. 29, 2008, after the U.S. House of Representatives shot down the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Immediately after the vote, big banks made the market plunge a record 778 points, sparking widespread fear and panic that helped convince Congress to eventually pass the bailout.
Can these conveniently timed market freak-outs be chalked up as a simple, if stunning, response to significant political events? Or is there something more sinister going on?
Right now, there is enough financial firepower concentrated in the hands of a few individuals to move the stock market whichever way these people want it to go. These 10-minute 700 point drops could very well be a precision-guided High Frequency Trading (HFT) attack designed to show Congress who's boss.
In today's stock market, 70 percent of all trades are executed by computer algorithms via High Frequency Trading. And Goldman Sachs completely dominates the HFT business, with a virtual monopoly over trading at the New York Stock Exchange, as Tyler Durden describes for Zero Hedge:
Goldman's dominance of the NYSE's Program Trading platform, where in addition to recent entrant GETCO, it has been to date an explicit monopolist of the so-called Supplementary Liquidity Provider program, a role which affords the company greater liquidity rebates for, well providing liquidity, and generating who knows what other possible front market-looking, flow-prop integration benefits. Yesterday [5/6/10], Goldman's SLP function was non-existent. One wonders -- was the Goldman SLP team in fact liquidity taking, or to put it bluntly, among the main reasons for the market collapse.
Importantly, Durden notes that in April, Goldman executed a huge proportion of trades for its own account—enough to significantly move the market, if it wanted to.
What is notable here is that of the 1.4 billion in principal shares, or shares traded for the firm's own account, Goldman was the top trader by a margin of over 100% compared to the second biggest program trader.
We have long claimed that Goldman is the de facto monopolist of the NYSE's program trading platform. As such, it is certainly the case that Goldman was instrumental in either a) precipitating yesterday's crash or b) not providing the critical liquidity which it is required to do, when the time came. There are no other options.
For further investigation, I turned to Max Keiser, who has written and authored similar Program Trading and HFT computer algorithms. I asked him if he thought this was an attack, and here is his response:
May 6th was an unequivocal act of domestic financial terrorism in America. A day that will live in infamy. To scare the lawmakers, themselves large owners of the very banks and stocks that they are supposed to be regulating, a financial weapon of mass destruction was put to their head and they acquiesced.
As the inventor of the continuous double-action, market-making technology (VST tech. US pat. no. 5950176) that is referenced 132 times by program trading and HFT patents since 1996, I can tell you that Goldman, JP Morgan and the gang simply pulled the "buys" from their computer trading programs and manufactured a crash. And when the coast was clear, and it was clear the politicians were not going to vote for anything that would break up the "too big to fail" banks; all the "sells" were pulled from the computers and the market roared back.
This is a Manchurian Candidate market where program trading bots start the ball rolling in whatever direction Wall St. wants the market to go -- and then hundreds of thousands of day traders watching Cramer on CNBC jump on the momentum bandwagon and commit the crime for the Wall St. financial terrorists, who then say, "It wasn't us, it was 'the market!'"
On Friday, the day after the "flash crash" and the defeat of the "break up the banks" amendment, Goldman just happened to be meeting with the SEC to work out a settlement in the Abacus fraud case.
These two major market crashes are not the only grounds for suspicion. On January 21 and 22 of 2010, President Barack Obama had a press conference and came out in favor of the Volcker Rule, which would have limited these HFT and "proprietary trading" schemes. At that time, the market dropped 430 points. Soon afterward, the Volcker Rule faded away and Obama has not seriously addressed this reform since then.
We know banks are willing to put the entire global economy at risk in order to pursue their own reckless profits. We also know that bankers at the largest U.S. financial firms are fighting like hell to keep their too-big-to-fail gun pointed at the head of the U.S. economy, and to keep their riskiest and most abusive activities beyond the scope of regulators. Consider what they've already accomplished over the past two years:
* 50 million Americans are now living in poverty, which is the highest poverty rate in the industrialized world;
* 30 million Americans are in need of work;
* Five million American families foreclosed on, with 15 million expected by 2014;
* 50 percent of U.S. children will now use a food stamp during childhood;
* Soaring budget deficits in states across the country and a record high national debt
* Record-breaking profits and bonuses for themselves.
Motive and means are not enough to prove a case. You have to show that someone actually executed the dirty deed. But right now there is an alarmingly narrow scope of the calls for investigation into the flash crash. The SEC is considering "market manipulation" investigations, while members of Congress want to investigate whether technological malfunctions are to blame. But shouldn't somebody at least be looking into whether the flash crash was not merely fraud perpetrated for profit, but outright political intimidation—an act of economic terrorism? We'll never know if we don't investigate.