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The Getco get

The owners of Getco, the Chicago-based high-frequency trading firm, long have been tight lipped–preferring to say little despite the firm’s outsized role in computer-driven, lightening fast trading. So I was looking forward to reading today’s Getco profile in The Wall Street Journal. But after reading the story, I came away disappointed.

Sure, as a general profile of Getco and its founders, the story is fine. And the article gives a good illustration of how high-frequency trading works. But the story fell short on so many levels.

First, where were the critics of high-frequency trading? The story briefly summarizes one of the criticisms–that it enables superfast traders to frontrun the market. (The WSJ never actually uses the phrase frontrun; instead it says “trade ahead”). But couldn’t we hear from an actual live critic?

Second, the criticism of high-frequency trading goes well beyond the issue of frontrunning. There’s the real concern about a rogue algorithm or a misfiring computer code, sparking an unintentional sell-off in a stock, or the broader market. But that issue wasn’t even mentioned.