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HFT and big dollars

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.

Citadel’s big Lehman loss

It’s long been suspected that Ken Griffin’s Citadel Investment Group took a big blow when Lehman Brothers went bust nearly a year ago. But Griffin and his management team have been reluctant to put a number on the damage to the Chicago-based fund.

That is, until now.

In a brief, one-page filing, Citadel claims it is owed some $470 million on a derivatives contract. The $12 billion hedge fund conglomerate offers no details about the derivatives deal in the proof of claim, submitted as part of the Lehman bankruptcy filing.

Regulators ram Citadel’s gate

The Office of Thrift Supervision isn’t known as the world’s most aggressive regulators. In fact, the Obama administration wants to merge it out of existence.

So I was quite surprised when the OTS late Friday decided to suspend consideration of an application that would have enabled Citadel Investment Group to get control over virtually all of E*Trade Financial customer trades–what’s known as order flow on Wall Street.

Citadel’s E*Trade Bonanza

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Citadel Investment Group’s move to aggressively sell off its substantial stake in E*Trade Financial looks like hedge fund magnate Ken Griffin is throwing in the towel on his big gamble on the online broker.

But Citadel isn’t bailing on E*Trade. In fact, if Griffin gets his way, the Chicago hedge fund will have its fingers dug deeper into E*Trade, getting daily access to virtually all of the online broker’s stock and option trades.

Wall Street meets The Matrix

Michael Durbin is no Wall Street rebel. But Durbin, who has been on the front lines of
high-frequency trading (HFT) since its early days, isn’t afraid to buck the industry line that lightning-fast trading of stock, options and commodities poses little or no risk to the stability of the markets.

Durbin says it’s reasonable to wonder whether Wall Street’s unfettered embrace of algorithmic automated trading could be setting the stage for a future meltdown.

What’s the frequency, SEC?

Sergey Aleynikov is not the Wall Street folk hero that some Goldman Sachs conspiracy theorists are making him out to be.

If Aleynikov stole some of the top secret code for Goldman’s automated, super-fast trading platform, as prosecutors contend, then he broke the law, and the 39-year-old former Goldman programmer should be appropriately punished.

Citadel joins the Sergey fray

Ken Griffin’s Citadel Investment Group just filed a lawsuit against former top trader Misha Malyshev for apparently violating a non-compete agreement he signed when leaving the big Chicago hedge fund earlier this year. Malyshev, of course, is the founder of Teza Technologies, an upstart high-frequency trading hedge fund that hired away alleged Goldman Sachs code-cracker Sergey Aleynikov.

Malyshev and his partners, all former Citadel people, put out a statement on Tuesday saying they suspended Aleynikov after learning of his July 3 arrest. The former Citadel guys also say they were unware of Aleynikov’s alleged theft of Goldman’s proprietary trading computer code.

Sergey and Misha

The name of the Chicago firm that hired alleged Goldman code-cracker Sergey Aleynikov is out and it’s a name you’ve probably never heard of before. That’s because Teza Technologies LLC is a new firm–formed in May–by former Citadel Investment Group trader Misha Malyshev.

Malyshev, who had been a top high-frequency trader at Citadel, left the giant hedge fund in February because he felt he was not being sufficiently compensated, says a source familiar with the situation. Malyshev’s group was one of the more profitable last year for Ken Griffin’s operation, which overall had one of its worst years ever in 2008

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