Barron’s: The Real Flash-Crash Culprits

MEET THE FLASH-CRASH scapegoat. A report by regulators blamed May’s spectacular market break on a single trade by a single “mutual fund complex” identified in the press as Waddell & Reed.

This was as ludicrous as blaming Mrs. O’Leary’s cow rather than lax building codes for the Great Chicago Fire. The official explanation of the May 6 tumult, which saw the Dow plunge by nearly 1,000 points before largely recovering, does not hold up beyond a reasonable doubt.

In fact, the jargon-encrusted back pages of the report suggest that far greater damage was inflicted on investors that day by their brokerage firms. The brokers abandoned them to the wildfire. Call it progress: Never before have so many lambs been roasted so quickly.

The “Findings Regarding the Market Events of May 6, 2010,” by the staffs of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission,said that although volatility was rising and sellers began to outnumber buyers, a mutual-fund complex initiated a program to sell some 75,000 E-Mini contracts on the Standard & Poor’s 500, valued at $4.1 billion, as a hedge to an existing equity position. E-Minis are electronically traded portions of regular futures contracts. The regulators faulted this fund complex for using a program to feed orders into the E-Mini market at an execution rate of 9% of the total trading volume, and without regard to price or time

Read more at Barron’s

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