What’s Worse Than Ticket Scalpers? Stock Scalpers.

Sarah Anderson Co-Editor, Inequality.org

nternet bots immediately snapped up Beyonce’s presale tickets last year. And when the resale price rose above $1,000, the Beyhive was mighty peeved.

Ticket scalpers are indeed frustrating. But their Wall Street cousins — what UMass-Amherst professor Douglas Cliggott calls the “stock scalpers” — are far more dangerous.

Like online ticket scalpers, these financial predators use advanced technology to cheat the rest of us. For huge sums, they buy the privilege of locating their computer servers as close as possible to market exchanges. This allows them to get trading information a split-second faster than traditional investors.

So when a mutual or pension fund makes a trade, the stock scalpers see that trade on its way to the market. “They hop in front of it, buy it, and bid up what we want to buy and sell it back to us at a higher price,” explains Cliggott, a former JPMorgan Chase managing director.

The scalpers do this thousands of times a day, using computers programmed with algorithms that have no connection to the real economy. This “high frequency” trading makes up the majority of today’s market activity.

Many financial experts, including a former CFTC chief economist, have warned that high speed trading siphons profits from traditional investors. For the minority of U.S. workers who have any money at all in a retirement fund, that’s a bigger problem than missing out on a Beyonce concert.

Even more disturbing is the risk the high-speed traders pose for the global financial system. John Fullerton, another former JPMorgan Managing Director, points out that high frequency traders vanish from the market in a flash in times of crisis. “This can trigger a cascading effect as real money investors pull back in self-defense and at times flee in panic,” explains Fullerton, who currently leads the Capital Institute.

Jean-Philippe Serbera, a financial markets expert at Sheffield Hallam University, views the threat of a major “flash crash” as more likely today than during the relatively calm bull market of the past several years. “In a more depressed market, where there’s inevitably more volatility and traders are more downbeat,” Serbera says, “the worry is that flash crashes are more likely to get out of hand — possibly causing contagion around the world.”

There’s an easy solution to these problems: tax the stock scalpers.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Labor Wins

From the AFL-CIO

On Tuesday, the labor movement drove historic wins for pro-worker candidates like Governor-Elect Andy Beshear in Kentucky and new legislative majorities in Virginia. Not only did union members come out to vote in droves, 270 union member candidates were elected to public office last night and counting. This adds to the total of more than 900 union members elected up and down the ballot in last year’s midterms, a product of the Union Member Candidate Program launched by the AFL-CIO just two years ago. The share of union members who won in the 2018 midterms is two-thirds. The program will continue through 2020 and beyond, electing even more union members to public office. 

“Our efforts recruiting, training and supporting labor candidates have led to the passage of pro-worker legislation from coast to coast and everywhere in between,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

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