In recent months, Wall Street has been whipped into a frenzy following the March 31st release of Michael Lewis’ book “Flash Boys.” In the book, Lewis characterizes the stock market as being rigged, which has institutional investors and outside observers alike demanding some sort of SEC action. The vast majority of this criticism is aimed at high-frequency traders, who use complex computer algorithms to execute trades several times faster than the blink of an eye. One of the many complaints against high-frequency traders is over parasitic trading practices, such as front-running. Front-running, in the era of high-frequency trading, is best defined as using the knowledge of a large impending trade to take a favorable position in the market before that trade is executed. Put simply, these traders are able to jump in front of a trade before it can be completed. This Note explains how high-frequency traders are able to front-run trades using superior access to information, and examines several proposed SEC responses.
Jacob Adrian, Informational Inequality: How High Frequency Traders Use Premier Access to Information to Prey on Institutional Investors, 14 Duke Law & Technology Review 256-279 (2016)