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How Wall Street Got Addicted to Light-Speed Trading

This is probably one of things hugely wrong with Wall Street these days. Raging Bulls: How Wall Street Got Addicted to Light-Speed Trading | Wired Business | Wired.com
High-frequency traders are a subset of quants, investors who make money the newfangled way: a fraction of a cent at a time, multiplied by hundreds of shares, tens of thousands of times a day. These traders occupy an anomalous position on Wall Street, carrying themselves with a distinctive mixture of diffidence and arrogance that sets them apart from the pure, unmixed arrogance of investment bankers. A pioneering high-frequency trading firm, Tradeworx, has its relatively humble offices two flights up from an Urban Outfitters in a sleepy New Jersey suburb. Twenty people work there, about half of them on the trading floor, monitoring on triple screens the fractions of a penny as they mount up, second by second. Roughly 1.5 percent of the total volume of stocks traded on US exchanges on a given day will pass, however fleetingly, through the hushed, sunlit, brick-walled room. On the first day of the New York conference, Aaron Brown, a legendary quant and former professional poker player, took the stage in rumpled chinos and a leather jacket to lecture the assembly on game theory. He began his talk by saying, “3.14159,” and then pausing expectantly. From the back of the room came the response: “265358.” Together they made up the first 12 digits of pi—a geek shibboleth. “You won’t see a lot of masters of the universe here,” said Charles Jones, a professor of finance and economics at Columbia Business School. “A lot of these guys, if they’re wearing a tie, it might be the only one they own.” Faster and faster turn the wheels of finance, increasing the risk that they will spin out of control, that a perturbation somewhere in the system will scale up to a global crisis in a matter of seconds. “For the first time in financial history, machines can execute trades far faster than humans can intervene,” said Andrew Haldane, a regulatory official with the Bank of England, at another recent conference. “That gap is set to widen.”

August 07, 2012

22,500 AT&T workers are striking today because of the company's flagrant disregard for their welfare

Last year AT&T made $20 BILLION in profits. CWA District 9 Members at AT&T West Call Unfair Labor Practice Strike - MarketWatch
"Contract negotiations are never easy," said CWA District 9 Vice President Jim Weitkamp. "But when AT&T violates the law repeatedly, the process really can't work. Given AT&T's record profits, tax breaks and jaw-dropping executive compensation, there is no reason for them to insist on lowering the standard of living of a single worker." In months of contract negotiations, AT&T has demanded major concessions from workers on health care, job security, scheduling, sick leave, disability, and pensions. Members have been working under an expired contract since April 8. "We won't buckle under to corporate fear tactics, threats and intimidation," said Orange Richardson an AT&T Splicing Technician based out of San Francisco. "A huge, very profitable company like AT&T can maintain decent working conditions for its workers." AT&T violated provisions of the National Labor Relations Act by denying workers' rights to engage in protected, concerted activity; and by implementing unilateral changes without bargaining. Workers are especially angry about AT&T's abrupt, unannounced changes in working conditions for the U-Verse Video Technicians and for management threats of discipline for wearing union stickers and buttons. Union members were quick to protest, staging a series of concerted actions escalating to today's general unfair labor practice strike.

August 06, 2012

Michigan man buys every foreclosed property in Macomb County at once

The Consumerist -- Man Buys All 650 Foreclosed Properties In One County For $4.8 Million In Back Taxes
Why settle for scooping up one tax-foreclosed property when you can nab say, 650 of them in one fell swoop? Of course, being a millionaire helped in the case of one Michigan man who plunked down $4.8 million to buy every foreclosed property in a recent county sale. All he had to do was pay off the total amount of back taxes owed, and voila! He's got a bunch of property and is the only one in county history to have pulled off such a feat. The businessman says he just went for something that was available to anyone after authorities said the properties could sell as a package deal. He says it's not like he's the only one who could've gotten such a deal — he was just the guy who went for it. "I paid all the back taxes that was due and that's what the county wanted," he explained to MyFoxDetroit.com. Of course, some of his fellow hopeful buyers were a bit peeved to see all the properties go in a flash without the chance to bid on any of them. One particularly dumbfounded Canadian investor said his company had been willing to bid much higher than $4.8 million. "The price we were willing to pay is like three to four times what they're asking," he told the news station. "If we knew it was going to happen like this, we wouldn't even have spent any time. They could've made more money, I mean triple the money they made." The new owner of those 650 properties says he's willing to part ways with some of the houses and has been flooded with emails from interested buyers. He's even offering to sell for near-auction prices and says his situation as a private citizen will benefit buyers. Any lots or homes he can't sell he's going to donate.