Before reading Flash Boys, I was only marginally aware of High Frequency Trading and had only a vague notion of what it was. Michael Lewis sheds a lot of light on how it works and who it benefits (hint: not you) and apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was in the dark. HFT is usually portrayed as being a net win for the markets because it provides liquidity. That turns out to be far from the truth. Not only is the liquidity provided by HFT a false liquidity that benefits no one, it turns out it’s just a way to take advantage of having faster access to market data to essentially skim from “normal” market activity. It’s guys with faster connections and privileged access to market data taking your money when you trade while providing you zero benefit whatsoever in return.
You pretty much have to have faith that based on his reputation, Lewis is getting his facts straight since it obviously behooves the HFT traders to obfuscate what they’re doing. If he’s getting it right though, then there’s a lot of crap going down that should shake your faith in the good intentions of majority of stock brokers. Fortunately there is a hint of optimism throughout the book and signs that things are changing, but the situation he describes so well is very much still happening today.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it might seem outdated since it was set and written during and only very shortly afer the internet bubble of the 90's, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story of each of the companies the eBoys invested in was interesting and the way the author puts you directly in the conversation is great. The only disappointment for me was an excessive fidelity to reproducing their use of profanity. There were probably 30 or 40 uses of the "f-word" throughout the book.