Did Michael Lewis Really Break News With 'Flash Boys'?

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 04:42 PM

By Jon Friedman

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All of Wall Street and Main Street are buzzing about best-selling author Michael Lewis' claim, publicized lavishly by his appearance Sunday night on CBS' "60 Minutes," that the stock market is rigged against small investors by computer-savvy investment firms.
 
Yawn.
 
OK, maybe I'm being a little too hard on Lewis. Scratch that "yawn." Make it instead, "So?"
 
Lewis, the highly successful and acclaimed writer whose latest book is titled "Flash Boys," made a splash with his first book, "Liar's Poker," published a quarter-century ago. In the book, Lewis brilliantly took us ordinary investors behind the scenes of Salomon Brothers and lifted the curtain on how the world really worked. We learned about the egos, the arrogance, the gamesmanship.
 
The book was a best-seller — deservedly so — and launched Lewis' dazzling writing career. His books include such big sellers and sensations as "Moneyball" and "The Blind Side," which eventually became major Hollywood movies.
 
Now, Lewis purports to make his claim that "the little guy" has basically no chance because the stock market is being finessed with super high-speed computers. I don't doubt it. But is the conclusion actually groundbreaking news?
 
I started covering Wall Street during the go-go 1980s, the decade of excess, of insider-trading scandals, the 1987 crash, and the sweepstakes for RJR Nabisco. It was also the period when Main Street fell in love with the stock market, too, and mutual funds flourished.

All we heard at the time was that this device called program trading had swept through the trading rooms and taken over, putting the small investors at a decided disadvantage. Sound familiar?
 
Of course, Lewis and his publisher have a horse in this race. They want to scare the heck out of us and make us shake our collective fists in fury at the greed of Wall Street. Lewis would love for this furor to spread to Washington, with his book's testimony as the rallying cry. He has picked an opportune time. The Occupy Wall Street movement has reached a logical conclusion here — with Wall Street looking like complete villains.
 
The thing is: Is Lewis telling us something we don't already know?
 
Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
 
 
 

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