How the SEC Really Feels About High Frequency Trading

For fans of Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, the SEC would like you to know that things are going splendidly on the high frequency crackdown front. In January 2015 alone, the agency brought three high frequency trading (HFT) suits against different sharks in the securities market. One such shark is high frequency trader Aleksandr Milrud. Milrud layered trades for approximately two years starting in January 2013. Around the globe, Milrud’s recruits used HFT to fraudulently inflate and deflate stock prices to profit upon buying and selling at the altered price. To clear up any lingering confusion on the part of the SEC’s confidential broker informant, Milrud actually referred to the artificial price pressure as “the dirty work.” Milrud further explained that he usually wired his illicit profits to an offshore bank account and later met with an individual who would give him a suitcase full of cash. The SEC’s complaint confirms that the agency believes “Milrud’s layering scheme was very lucrative. In the course of soliciting the [confidential informant’s] participation in his scheme, Milrud stated that one of his trading groups generated profits of approximately one million dollars per month.” Indeed, the complaint later outlines two examples of Milrud’s profiteering activities: Exhibit 1 involved an order that resulted in a $72.28 profit for the trader. Exhibit 2 clocked in a bit more conservatively at $60.74 worth of illegal profits. Milrud even “directed a wire transfer of $5,000 to a bank account located in New Jersey. The purpose of the transfer was to fund a trading account . . . so that Milrud’s traders could use the account to engage in layering.”...

Googling “Search Bias”: The Efforts of Antitrust Agencies to Even the Playing Field.

Google has been a target of antitrust allegations for nearly as long as it has existed. In recent years, agencies domestic and abroad have accused the tech giant of “search bias.” The charge of search bias—levied against Google by competitors and watchdogs—asserts that the company designed search algorithms to promote its own targeted content at the expense of third-party content and advertising. Google is a slippery target: twice now escaping essentially unscathed from investigation by the FTC and European Commission. The latter of these settlements, however, may be altered or even undone in the course of the next few months. In January of 2013, Google satisfied FTC investigations into antitrust violations of search bias because there was no evidence that Google intentionally sought to hurt competition. Admittedly, the FTC conceded, Google’s play-to-win attitude led the company to strive to out-best its competitors.[1] But Beth Wilkinson, FTC’s outside counsel, publicly maintained that “the FTC’s mission is to protect competition, and not individual competitors.”[2] From Google’s side, the company made two concessions in order to avoid fines by the FTC.[3] First, the company agreed to desist from preventing competitors’ access to key technologies by way of patent blocking. In essence, Google has a history of scooping up smaller companies and their valuable patent portfolios. Later, the company files injunctions against competitors seeking to purchase a license to use the patented technologies in their own products. Tech companies generally commit to license appropriate patents under FRAND (“fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory”) terms. Google, conceding that there might have been some slippage on those promises with the above patents, has re-committed to the FRAND...