HFT and big dollars

October 2, 2009

There’s more evidence today about the big profitability of computer-driven high-frequency trading.

The Wall Street Journal says Ken Griffin’s Citadel Investment Group hedge fund empire made $1 billion from proprietary trading with HFT last year. The profitability number came out during testimony in an ongoing lawsuit Citadel has filed against a group of former HFT employees who left to start their own firm.

This is the same upstart firm that alleged Goldman Sachs HFT computer code thief Sergey Aleynikov had gone to work for before being nabbed July 4 weekend at Newark Liberty Airport. Aleynikov, who has pleaded not guilty and is trying to work out a plea deal, is set to be in court again on Oct. 16.

What’s worth remembering is this $1 billion figure is just the money raked in by Citadel’s prop trading HFT business. It doesn’t include the dollars Griffin’s empire takes in from market making–a business that’s also driving by HFT computer programs.

None of this is really a surprise given the way big HFT players like Goldman and Citadel have gone to protect the secret sauce of their lightening fast trading platforms.

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Thanks once again for blowing HFT / Aleynikov open in July. Seeing that we’re talking about a zero-sum game here, those winnings have got to be the substantial losings of retail and institutional investors. It’s obscene that pensions and hospital endowments are fueling this idiocy, and more obscene that good people like Misha and Serge have been diverted away from socially useful work.