Today marks five years since the infamous May 6 2010 ‘flash crash’ that erased billions from U.S. markets. The event was caused by electronic trading firms matching wits against a single human who knew how to beat them.
That human, Nav Sarao, is now in jail while the firms, such as Virtu, Citadel, AQR and others enjoy the high life. Virtu, strongly suspected in fingering the patsy, Mr. Sarao, is now a publicly listed company. It also reported earnings the same day as Mr. Sarao’s arrest, which was likely orchestrated to deflect attention from the company’s suspicious financial results.
The company has never lost money on a single day in over 6 years of operation.
The firm calls this trading while more knowledgeable investors call it rigging the market.
Earlier today Mr. Sarao was fighting if not for his life then certainly his freedom when he told a London court he had done nothing wrong, the Flash Crash was not his fault, and was just good at his job.
“I’ve not done anything wrong apart from being good at my job. How is this allowed to go on?” Sarao said at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
How is it allowed to go on? Simple: Mr. Sarao threatened to expose the “mass manipulation of High Frequency Nerds”, and since Virtu was about to report its first public quarter since going public, someone had to deflect attention from the true culprits of the flash crash.
In other words, he is the scapegoat: a patsy who “traded from his parents’ modest home in west London.”
Worse, the ‘mastermind’ behind the biggest, if briefest, wipe-out in market value in history, is unable to find the 5 million pounds he needs to post bail.
As Reuters reports, Sarao’s lawyer James Lewis said Mr. Sarao had not been able to access the 5 million pounds because U.S. authorities had frozen his assets.
“We cannot obtain any money. Any request to obtain the money was refused,” Lewis told the court.
So while the predator high frequency trading firms continue to prowl the market, stealing a little tiny bit from average Americans on every single trade, an innocent man sits in jail.