Our financial markets provide a vital link between investors and businesses in need of capital. They enable companies and governments to raise funds for operations, and investors to participate and earn a return. Their smooth and stable operation is inexorably intertwined with the well-being of the entire global economy. Since the birth of the republic, the US financial system has been challenged, tested, shaken and subject to growing pains. However in very recent times, it has been shaken by tremors so powerful, they are weakening confidence in a market that once was the envy of the world.
Ghost Exchange probes the current state of US capital markets, the impact of high frequency and algorithmic trading, the lack of, or ineffective regulatory oversight and the risks that are now inherent in our markets by going right to the source –Wall Street’s leading insiders – who shine a light on startling signs that the US stock market has built so much speed and complexity into the current system that it is impossible to regulate. The system has become – a Ghost Exchange.
The technology powering these markets has evolved at breakneck speed and change has accelerated dramatically. An unrelenting focus on technology, hyper short-term trading, speed, and volume has eclipsed sanity in some areas – benefiting an increasingly smaller group of players. Mathematical algorithms conduct nearly 75% of US stock trades today. Machines trade against each other, chasing mathematical models written by an elite group of engineers and mathematicians. The idea that Wall Street is a loud market place of open commerce is a long gone myth. Now, traders’ machines are moving blocks of stock and holding them for less than a microsecond. There are more than 50 trading venues, (once it was just the NYSE, NasDaq and the American Stock Exchange) the majority of which are so-called dark pools where trades are executed without transparency to the public.
The film seeks to explain how all this happened, who did it, what it means, and what’s coming next- understanding the true implications of events ranging the “Flash Crash” of 2010 to the trading system crash for the Facebook IPO in 2012…and most importantly, what it may mean to the investing public, what can be done to change it and what the SEC is (or isn’t) doing about it.