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The Almighty Buck Crime

UBS Rogue Trader Loses $2 Billion In Unauthorized Trades 360

Posted by timothy
from the let's-give-it-to-a-nice-fiscally-responsible-government dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes with this snippet from Reuters that sounds like a ready-made movie script: "Switzerland's UBS said on Thursday it had discovered unauthorized trading by a trader in its investment bank had caused a loss of some $2 billion. 'The matter is still being investigated, but UBS's current estimate of the loss on the trades is in the range of $2 billion,' the bank said in a brief statement just before the stock market opened." Asks the RanchKid: "I wonder how this will reopen the debate about the role of computer systems in the trading and the safeguards that are supposed to protect against these risks. But if microseconds mean millions in trading ... who has time for checks?"
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UBS Rogue Trader Loses $2 Billion In Unauthorized Trades

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  • Who came out on top on this trade? Or was is spread amongst many?

    • The stock market is not a zero-sum game.
      • by Pharmboy (216950)

        No, but you can "lose" money in order for someone else to "gain" it, in a laundering fashion. There is more to the market than buying and selling stock.

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        The stock market is not a zero-sum game.

        Ultimately, it is, because ultimately, every trade has a winner and a loser, and ultimately, the value of every stock goes to zero. We just haven't seen the game played out long enough yet (though we came pretty close recently).

        • by xelah (176252) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @02:25PM (#37412370)

          The stock market is not a zero-sum game.

          Ultimately, it is, because ultimately, every trade has a winner and a loser, and ultimately, the value of every stock goes to zero. We just haven't seen the game played out long enough yet (though we came pretty close recently).

          No, it isn't (except in the 'in the long run we are all dead' sense). Consider the dot com boom. Over-inflated dot com stock valuations caused large amounts of additional investment in dot coms which were never going to make money, or quite possible provide any useful service at all. The economy wasted resources in pointless rubbish, thus reducing the amount available for consumption and investment in other things.

          Stock market valuations and stock market investors motivated by them affect many decisions. Things like: should company x buy company y? What minimum rate of return should we require internally on our investments/what should we take our internal cost of capital to be? Should the current managers be retained? Should we raise money via a new share issue or IPO? What should I, as a VC or private equity investor, invest in and how much money do I get (from sales of businesses) to spend on new investments? What interest rate must the government pay me for me to lend to it instead of buying stocks?

          I'm not going to claim stock markets do these well. I don't know the answer and I don't know what to compare them to. Nor will I claim there isn't a great deal of zero-sum or near zero-sum activity going on - that described in the article is almost certainly near-zero-sum (probably somewhat negative). It's quite plain, though, that these decisions have to be made and that they're important. They affect economic growth rates. They affect the distribution of wealth (amongst ordinary people, not just those in the industry). They are most certainly not zero sum.

          • Dot-com shows up IPO'd overvalued at $100. Shrewd investor spends $100. I: -$100; IPO: +$100. Total: $0.

            Market frenzy overvalues dot-com at $350/share. Shrewd investor sells his stock to Sucker for $350. I:+$250. IPO:+$100. S:-$350. Total: $0

            The IPO gained the company $100 per share. Investor spent $100, so he was down by $100. Then the value went up to $350. Investor sold, got $350, some other sucker went down by $350. The investor has made $250, as he just got $350 after giving $100 to the

            • by xelah (176252)

              Dot-com shows up IPO'd overvalued at $100. Shrewd investor spends $100. I: -$100; IPO: +$100. Total: $0.

              Add up all the money people give to others. Take away all the money people receive from others. Total: $0. (Neglecting changes to the money supply which isn't really relevant here). This doesn't mean your economy has zero output. It doesn't mean your economy is a zero sum game. Prices affect decisions. Decisions affect production and consumption. Production and consumption affect human welfare. Human welfare (ideally, but conceptually tricky) or output is what you're summing, not transactions.

              Market frenzy overvalues dot-com at $350/share. Shrewd investor sells his stock to Sucker for $350. I:+$250. IPO:+$100. S:-$350. Total: $0

              Hypothetical S

              • You missed out: company spent $100 dollars per share (or the founders founded or VCs invested in the company in the hope of receiving $100 per share) on getting people to do stuff. The stuff they did produced no useful output. Had the company not got them to do that most (or possibly all) of those people would have done other stuff....stuff which quite possibly would have produced useful output.

                I don't want to deal with the extremely complex socio-economic arguments in an argument about whether the stock market makes money vanish or not. The stock market is not a place where money goes to die; it is a place where people go to gamble... or, not quite, more of a game of skill against risk. Risk is controllable, whereas in gambling it's stacked such that risk is fixed. Still, the model fits: you put money in, someone else puts money in, and the lot of you hope to get your hands in the pot when i

                • by xelah (176252)

                  I don't want to deal with the extremely complex socio-economic arguments in an argument about whether the stock market makes money vanish or not.

                  Good. Nor do I. It's not money that's important, except as a mechanism. The payoffs to the game are goods and services people consume, not money. I claim two things: 1. These payoffs are not zero sum. 2. The total of these payoffs across all players are affected by the existence and operation of the stockmarket.

                  The stock market is not a place where money goes to die; it is a place where people go to gamble... or, not quite, more of a game of skill against risk. Risk is controllable, whereas in gambling it's stacked such that risk is fixed. Still, the model fits: you put money in, someone else puts money in, and the lot of you hope to get your hands in the pot when it's full of everyone else's money.

                  No, it doesn't fit. The pot varies in size based on whether the investments are good investments or not and whether stock market pricing is good or not. It does this because it affects the investment

        • I don't think you understand what a zero-sum game is. The idea that, eventually, the stock market will be destroyed (or whatever you're saying) wouldn't make it a zero-sum game. From the wikipedia article:

          a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s)

          So the stock market isn't a zero sum game. It's not that stocks are simply traded-- the total amount of wealth in the world grows an

          • by tomhudson (43916)

            The stock market doesn't affect the amount of wealth in the real world - it just lets you exchange tokens that represent that real world weath.

            The amount of iron in the universe doesn't suddenly triple if someone issues 3x as much iron stock. Just like the number of tons of iron in a warehouse doesn't suddenly triple if the stock of the warehouse operator triples.

        • by Artraze (600366)

          The economy isn't inherently zero sum because growth in the populous leads to an increase in wealth. Basically, think that the amount of gold is constant, but the number of people wanting it grows, so its price goes up with the population (which is how we used to use gold for coins, but now that's almost unthinkable). You could buy gold one year and sell it for a profit the next. The person that bought it could then resell it the year after and also make money. Nobody lost. (This assumes, of course, it

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            Except that there's a difference between "the economy" and "the stock market" which your analysis fails to take into account. Please try again. The stock market IS a zero-sum game. It's easy enough to see - when a company is liquidated and their stocks go to zero, the real-world assets don't magically cease to exist.

            All the stock market is, is a way to gamble legally.

      • Your right but....

        ETF & Delta Hedging – the desk he was on - tend to be “commodity” trading. Simply, low risk / low profit stuff. It’s mostly arbitrage in the classic sense. Pounding out pennies as they say – and you make up the profit with large volume.

        As for many players – maybe yes – maybe no. For example, the largest ETF out there is Blackrock’s S&P 500 (SPY). Because it is open ended, this means that Blackrock is contentiously creating shares (and

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        You're right, in the end it's net negative thanks to the commissions skimmed by the traders and fund managers. If a company like UBS bought and sold at a loss to the tune of $2B, you can be sure there were benefactors on the other side (say, someone or a group of someones who bought/sold and ended up UP by $2B). If they made one super-stupid purchase that later dropped by $2B, you can be sure that the price bump caused by the buying of all those shares was profited by someone. If it wasn't, the value of t

      • by Rolgar (556636)

        Market trading is a zero sum game. What if the price of a hypothetical $2billion trade increased to 2.1billion? The $100 million the seller, was given up by the buyer. There is no net change in the total net worth of the two traders so, economically, this is a zero sum game. Over time, the stock may be worth more than the trade price or less, but it's still a zero sum game. If the investment goes up, the buyer benefits. But the seller may regret not owning the investment. Likewise, if the seller is relieved

    • by instagib (879544)

      My guess: he wanted to boost his bonus and gambled. He failed, tried to earn the loss by some more gambling, but as it goes the casino won.

      The question is, how was he able to hide these transactions from controlling, and was it even difficult to do that.

      To add insult to injury, this is a bailed out bank!

      • His background is in computers, his former job at UBS before becoming a trader was in communications. He may have hacked the oversight systems.

    • I read it as trade(s) meaning the employee made many bad choices over a period of time. I also read it as "unauthorized" meaning UBS wasn't paying attention or that he bypassed some safeguards.
  • But if microseconds mean millions in trading ... who has time for checks?"

    At that price, who doesn't have time for checks?
    • Bitcoin (Score:4, Funny)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:44PM (#37411894)

      I hear UBS is going to go to 100% bitcoin. A spokesman said, "basically there aren't enough computers on the planet to handle a billion bitcoin transactions per hour, so it will be days before the money is actually transferred. This gives us time to roll back anything, plus we can get interest on the float while we wait for the transaction to close."

      Bitcoin, is there any problem it can't make better?

    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's the thing. They don't have time to do checks, because it's a race to beat the other vultures to fleece the individual investors. It's still common practice for hedge funds to buy and sell stocks with knowledge of what the prices will be ahead of time on some of the smaller exchanges

      • Citation needed?

      • They don't have time to do checks,

        Yes, they do. Every trade is supposed to be monitored. Even if it means a few bad trades get through, they can and are supposed to review the accounts, timing, etc that go in to every trade to determine legitimacy and adherence to trading rules.

        It's one thing to say you can't check an instantaneous trade. It's quite another to say you can't look at multiple trades your traders make and not pick up on improprieties.

        This comes down to willful ignorance. So l
  • I would just like to say that I have never lost any company I work for 2 billion dollars.
    Not even 2 million.
  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by J'raxis (248192) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:36PM (#37411754) Homepage

    How does a human being engaged in $2B worth of fraud say anything about computer algorithms and millisecond-level trading?

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by show me altoids (1183399) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:42PM (#37411856)
      Was this USB 2.0 or 3.0? I wouldn't think 2.0 would be fast enough to lose this much money this quickly.
    • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 15, 2011 @02:08PM (#37412208)

      Because the banks could have checks in place to avoid this kind of unauthorized trading, but they chose not to because it would slow down the system a little bit. Bankers believe that a bank implementing all proper security protocols would be too slow to compete in this era of millisecond-level trading.

    • The idea is that the fraud wouldn't have been nearly as easy if it weren't for the insanity of the trading system. Your question is kind of like asking, "how does a human stealing secure data say anything about operating system security?" Humans choose to commit the crimes, sure; that doesn't mean we should structure the system to make it as easy for them as possible, which appears to be what we've done with trading.

      • by brunes69 (86786)

        So if the trade took 1 second instead of 0.01 seconds, it would have been easily noticed???

        This is total nonsense. This has nothing at all to do with high-speed trading, if anything it has to do with policy enforcement, plain and simple.

        • by medv4380 (1604309)
          If any of this has to do with High Speed Trading or anything really to do with electronic trading it is because of WHO was arrested. FTA

          "Adoboli, a University of Nottingham computer science and management graduate"

          The investigation is still underway and I haven't seen anything that says how he did it or how long it took just that they noticed Wednesday, Yesterday.
          If this has anything to do with HST then the only way to fix it is to put a 24 hour delay on electronic trades. However if this was done over the course of months or years and they just now found out then even putting a d

        • So if the trade took 1 second instead of 0.01 seconds, it would have been easily noticed???

          Was it one trade worth $2 billion? I kind of doubt it. Most likely it was a bunch of trades, spread out over days or weeks. And yes, if those trades had taken a hundred times longer, maybe they would have been caught before such an insane amount of money was lost. (I'll note that the 0.01s you suggest is actually much, much slower than modern trading; it's more like a factor of a thousand, or ten thousand.)

          This is total nonsense. This has nothing at all to do with high-speed trading, if anything it has to do with policy enforcement, plain and simple.

          Again, policy enforcement is easier when the system isn't structured to make it easy for people to

  • Sometimes you don't win at gambling. What do they expect? If he had been lucky and instead made a 2 billion profit you would not be reading this.

  • by 0123456 (636235)

    How big a bonus will he get this year?

  • Right.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:40PM (#37411818) Journal
    These "rogue trader" stories come out from time to time, among employees of all the more respectable class of casino, and they leave me deeply skeptical...

    Either these outfits are, in fact, handing people the keys to gigantic piles of risk with controls roughly on par with the ones used to keep bored 16-year-old cashiers from skimming the till, or there is a substantial amount of tacit looking-the-other-way as Mr. Golden Boy flouts the rules and makes huge piles of money, and then, if things go south, his actions were "rogue".

    Honestly, I find it hard to believe the former. This industry is riddled with perverse incentives toward taking on outsize risk loads(that hopefully won't blow up until you leave, or will blow up in somebody else's face) in exchange for rewards now. Am I supposed to believe that Poor li'l UBS just got plumb slickered by some smooth talker, or that "rogue" is simply the PR response to those who operate particularly close to the risk/reward envelope and happen to stop producing the numbers that HQ wants to see?
    • by Pecisk (688001)

      I thought *exactly* the same when I first heard the news in more detail. It really feels like systematic abuse (especially when you take their history into account) and dropping all fault on guy when everything goes down the drain.

    • Your skepticism is definitely warranted. I am pretty sure this is the same bank that had a "rogue" trader story very similar to this sometime in the last 10 years. Except in that case, he ended up somewhere in Asia before they tracked him down, with supposedly most (or all) of the lost money in accounts that he controlled.
    • by xelah (176252)

      This industry is riddled with perverse incentives toward taking on outsize risk loads(that hopefully won't blow up until you leave, or will blow up in somebody else's face) in exchange for rewards now.

      I rather suspect it's more like 'Let's give myself a chance of saving my own arse by covering up that $10m loss I shouldn't have made by making an even bigger bet' repeated with exponentially increasing losses than 'Let's see if I can become a hero by making lots of money with a monstrously huge bet which breaks all the rules'. I suspect that breaking the rules imposed on you in a really big mult-$bn way is going to get you fired whether you're successful or not.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      These "rogue trader" stories come out from time to time, among employees of all the more respectable class of casino, and they leave me deeply skeptical...

      Regulations and controls have not prevented the biggest market disasters of our time,
      because those companies and individuals set out to do wrong from the beginning.
      Locks only keep honest people honest.

      I'm more interested in the fraud that doesn't get reported,
      because companies think that eating the cost is better than the bad publicity.

    • by quenda (644621)

      This industry is riddled with perverse incentives toward taking on outsize risk loads

      Which industry? That could equally apply to any business that pays perversely large performance bonuses.
      When an executive can get a multi-million dollar bonus, why not take any necessary risk? The downside is insignificant for an individual who is already got enough to retire on.

  • "Rogue"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by A5un (586681) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:41PM (#37411822)
    So, if you lose money, you're "rogue". But if you win money, you're "managing director"?
  • HFT is a problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:42PM (#37411832) Homepage Journal

    High-Frequency Trading is a bet, not much different than counting cards at a Las Vegas blackjack table.

    You're betting that:

    - You get your trade in milliseconds or less before the opportunity vanishes.
    - Your coders are not missing anything that would cause you to fail.
    - Your coders are sharper than the other coders our there, or...
    - You are taking from the humans, and aren't at risk from other HFT code.
    - Nothing goes bad in all of this, from comm links to the market platform.

    And of course you can always beg the SEC to unwind the transactions, claiming it was a programming glitch. That's been done before. The SEC is no longer an effective watchdog over the industry. It has in effect been 'captured'. Game Over unless Mary can turn it around. Unlikely.

    When you dig into how the NYSE actually works today, with DMMs and 'liquidity providers', that one entity can account for 10-20% of total volume, and all of that is HFT, you may realize that the days of humans trading on news and speculation are over. If you want to hold for a duration and take profits over the span of years, just hope you don;'t need to cash out on the same day as the machines have decided they see opportunity in trashing your holdings. Nothing personal, it was an algorithm you know. Just happens.

    It's a genuine miracle that we don't see more flash crashes and >$1B fails than we do. HFT is going ot destroy the market, but only for actual humans. One day, when we realize that 70% of the market volume is HFT, we will then understand that the NYSE in particular is a house of cards. Then what?

    • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:57PM (#37412068)

      More or less, it's astonishing to me that the SEC hasn't cracked down on these scams. It's not like it's some sort of secret, people outside the industry know that Wall Street is largely run on fraud and insider trading and that there are massive bonuses handed out even when a company isn't doing well.

      But, as long as the GOP continues to whip up anti-regulator sentiment, it's going to be really tough to get the regulations in place that are going to fix that.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        and as long as money is the prime political motivator, it will only get worse

        and it is, so changing it from within is, basically, impossible

        so if you want it changed, you'll have to mobilize your fat ass to mobilize your local collection of fat asses to vote the fat-cats' fat-assed shills out of office, first.

    • If you want to hold for a duration and take profits over the span of years, just hope you don;'t need to cash out on the same day as the machines have decided they see opportunity in trashing your holdings.

      If you diversify your holdings, and sell over time, you don't have much risk from this. When you are young, you should be investing in higher risk investments, but as retirements looms, you should move your holdings into guaranteed vehicles, like bonds. As all this happens over years, HFT shouldn't affect you too much. "Cashing out" is not part of a sane investment strategy.

  • by Hartree (191324) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:43PM (#37411874)

    I doubt they'd be calling it unauthorized if he'd made them 2 billion.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      They would, but you wouldn't hear about since there'd be no need to make an announcement or have someone arrested. They'd just internally discipline - from sacking to lowering their limits to adding more oversight. Losing $2B is pretty obviously outside your limits whereas you could make $2B without exceeding your trading limits - so they may not notice if their oversight is shit (and apparently it is).

  • Suppose you put in a trigger to "toss a trade" so your "friend" at another firm, which only you and your partner friend know how to trigger or exploit.

    The payday could be small enough to set you up for life and still be chump change and pass by an audit or the other normal wins and losses each month and wouldn't be easily found out as long as everyone kept their mouths shut.

    This is the danger of electronic algorithmic trading. No doubt there are safeguards in place, but that doesn't mean they can catch an

    • by boner (27505)

      The market is anonymous, unless you and our 'friend' agree on which product to trade you have no way of identifying the other party. On popular products, i.e. Google or Apple, this is impossible. On other products liquidity (trade volume) is so small that such transactions would stick out like a sore thumb.

      On top of that, it will take a lot more than two lines of code to defeat all the checks and balances in trading code. These checks and balances usually trace their origin to things having gone wrong in th

      • Wouldn't take but one database entry.

        In risk management there are far more commodities traded then you have good market data for.

        What you do is assign proxies for all commodities so you can aggregate your risk exposure. For example (pulled from a dark place) electricity traded in Phoenix could be proxied as 50% four corners, 50% S. Cal.

        To break risk management you simply have to mis-proxy a commodity trade. Switching a sign on the commodity that you do half your trading on will turn a huge exposed po

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:52PM (#37411984) Homepage

    I think it is increasingly clear that the more developed this trading gets, the more risk it offers the world's economy. It is also recognized that "safeguards" need to be in place to prevent certain things from happening. These same safeguards also serve to decrease that highly sought-after and desirable "leverage" power when making trades. These market people have been pushing regulators to remove such safety restrictions which have apparently been connected with all manner of troubles including the most recent market failure.

    I wouldn't be against banning the markets entirely. I think Hitler had it right in his analysis of why speculating is such a problem for economic stability. (Just as in the legal system, the only real winners are the lawyers)

    Of course the world's bankers would never allow any governments to take their playground away, but that's what I think should be done.

  • Not so surprising (Score:4, Informative)

    by LordNacho (1909280) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:52PM (#37411988)

    First of all, he'd worked in the back office, so he'd know both people and procedures.

    Second of all, anyone who's ever worked in finance can tell you big banks are chaotic. It's not really that strange that he can go about his business undetected for a while, because there's loads of traders with loads of portfolios. And most people on one desk are not going to be experts on the business of another. UBS has had a number of restructurings since the financial crisis. People are moved on, some desks are closed, some are merged, it's gonna be a mess. Makes it easier to hide.

    Third, risk officers are not what you think. They are not the internal police, vigilantly keeping an eye out for every possible transgression. They look at the positions, calculate the risk (big can of worms, don't ask), and when someone is over their limit, they show up at the trader's desk and are told to fuck off.

    Finally, it is not at all clear that technology played an important role in this fraud. Yes, some HFT market makers trade ETFs, but it's not clear his desk was. That doesn't mean a software error caused it, or that the fraud could not have occurred without whatever system he was using. From efinancial (which you need a subscription to read) the latest rumour is that he messed up a hedge in EURCHF, and his attempt to fix it made it worse.

    • by afidel (530433)
      I don't know, I'm pretty surprised that things are lax enough that a single trader can lose ~9 months of the companies profits.
      • Profits are quite variable at a big bank in turmoil.

        I can understand your surprise, but he's trading financial products. Most of them are simply numbers on a screen. There's no extra effort involved in buying 100M bucks worth of something over say 100K. It's not like if he bought and sold widgets which actually have to manufactured and delivered. And for the same reason, the bosses can't see him doing it either.

        And if you wonder why it can be done at all, it's because you have to move a lot of money around

        • Big banks don't run VAR reports nightly (or more)?

          VAR is designed to aggregate portfolios risk so you _can_ tell from casual observation.

          Value at Risk is just a tool and has problems and limits. Catching 2Billion positions should be well within its grasp.

          • There's a couple of shenanigans you can do. If your firm is amateur enough, you can put in manual trades that weren't real. In other words, because he's a voice trader, he could type in a trade that offsets his big position, but isn't matched by a counterparty. This will naturally create a "break", but some shops have a special portfolio in which error trades are dumped. If the dude has backoffice connections, he might be able to "explain" the discrepancy to someone, and they'll leave it, because there's a

        • by RogerWilco (99615)

          arb? I can't follow what you're saying in the Coca Cola vs Pepsi Cola example. Can you elaborate?

          • Suppose you're making the following assumption: Coca and Pepsi prices should roughly move together, because they essentially do the same thing. For simplicity, suppose they're both normally 100 USD each. Once in a while, for various reasons, Coke goes to 105 and Pepsi goes to 95. So, guessing that the long run price should return, you sell Coke and buy Pepsi. That's a statistical arb. (Not a pure arb, which would be sth like sell in London to buy in NY at the same time). Anyway, if you're and arb trader, th

    • That makes sense. For those not paying attention, EURCHF moved several percent in just a few minutes (1.12 to 1.20 IIRC) when the Swiss central bank decided to peg to the Euro. That is several times the expected daily range and about a hundred times the expected range over such a short period. Ordinarily since movements are so small, currency trades are highly leveraged, often 10x or more. Even small traders have trades nominally worth several hundred thousand euros. When the market gaps in price, stop-loss

  • by oGMo (379) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:58PM (#37412074)

    UBS Rogue Trader Loses $2 Billion In Unauthorized Trades

    They're investigating now. Apparently it was this guy:

    @

    Report anything to the nearest K. Last seen running toward a > .

  • This is the same A-hole who requested an iPad with company paid data plan from AT&T from IT! I knew he was up to no good the moment he mentioned AT&T! Think how much money would have been lost paying those data overages!

    - UBS anonymous IT personnel (not authorized to make a statement)

  • Quantitative Investment Software coding is just about the highest paying work a software engineer can get. The jobs typically start at $150,000 per year, and can pay as much as a million if you're really good. It's all written in C++, with Linux being the operating system in recent years.

    But you have to work in New York City. I don't want to live there, I think I'd go nuts. I've been looking for West Coast quant work, but none is available. You'd think there would be, as all the investment houses have

  • So $2 billion vanished and no alarms went off? I am impressed. Almost as good as Solyndra going out of business after getting $500 million loan from govt. Even if you do nothing, how do you go out of business that soon after getting a giant pile of $$$? Those private sector guys crack me up with their zany antics!
  • Are you all sure this entire story is not a huge lie, that this one trader is not used as a scapegoat, a fall guy for a larger systemic problem at the bank? On one hand knowing how Credit Swiss and UBS handle customers I can sort of believe that there is large level of confusion and things are not, as you would expect them, at least not what engineering types would expect it to be. It's like you are always trying to build a better system, a system that handles transactions properly, a system that does not a

  • It doesn't do *crap* for the main alleged purpose of the stock market - investing in worthwhile companies and business ventures as opposed to less worthwhile ones. Basically microtrading is just a way to shave money off of **everyone else's** trades and pocket the difference. Making money by taking it from other people trading, and NOT because you've made a wise investment in a good company.

    OF COURSE it results in instability. It takes the irrationality of people's emotions that's already a play in the ma

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @03:51PM (#37413250)

    They should revoke his Imperial Warrant! [google.com]

  • by DCFusor (1763438) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @07:02PM (#37415214) Homepage
    And what likely happened was something with the Swissie. Currencies are usually traded with a metric crapload of leverage, else the tiny fraction of a percent *normal* differences in the moves make them not worth trading at all, and they need to be traded some for price discovery to make the system work.

    The Swiss recently did a jaw droopingly stupid desperation move on their currency. They pegged it to the euro, in the attempt to stem their own currency's appreciation, which was ruining their trade with other countries, being thought of as "safe" in a time of turmoil, when so much cash was out of the other markets due to fear (the rest was going into gold). This resulted in a HISTORIC move of over 8.5% in something that normally moves .1% at most a day, overnight...That's a big enough move to really hurt (or help, depending on which side of a trade you're on) a normal trader. Now, with 100x leverage -- wow - even a tiny bet adds up very quickly, for or against you. With 100x leverage, everything is multiplied 100x -- except the money you have to put down to open the trade. In a gross oversimplification, you can bet $1, but lose $100 in that case. Meaning he might not even had had that huge a bet on. A lot of "safety obcessed" individuals also got hammered on this one. (and soon enough, on T bills when the bond vigilantes come out and treat us like the bankrupt jerks we are -- they'll be around as soon as BenB and TimG stop buying them in debt monetization).

    Most people figured that when that happened, the safe trade would switch entirely to gold. The thing is, the Swiss needed tons of instant dough to buy Euros with all of a sudden. So they sold tons of gold (literally) and tried to do it when the western markets weren't open. That was too much for the Asian retail investors to eat, so gold went down too -- they (for reasons that should be obvious) didn't give anyone a heads up on this, except perhaps a few special friends, so the whole deal caught everyone completely off. It will fail, but the Swiss had no choice but to try it or face ruin anyway - their currency was so overvalued that they could sell nothing to anyone else, and no country can live with that very long.

    Y'all might want to go look at zerohedge (no link, their servers are chronically overloaded as is - but a few more snarks won't hurt the place, just not all slashdot please) for some more on this. Sometimes they publish microsecond graphs of what the *headline reading* bots are doing too, they don't like HFT either, but it had nothing to do with this one. I used to think with my signal processing experience I could blow those bots off, as some of them seem pretty stupid. But they are a little ahead of most slashdotters in text understanding -- they actually can read the news tickers and adjust based on the headlines and content(!).

    The SEC is more or less completely owned by the people they are supposed to regulate. Too small, they don't care about you. Too big, they're already bribing you. Middle size is all they do, and they do little of that. It's like with drugs where the big dealer turns in the smaller competition once in awhile to the bribed cops, so everyone gets a benefit -- cops look good, getting a bust, big dealer gets rid of competition, all go home happy, well...almost all. It's a dirty game, but you can still win at poker even with a cheating dealer, if he's not after you personally.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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