The trading risks of HFT may decimate the HFT operation and at the same time greatly affect other market participants. Particularly, in selected markets, unchecked HFT may quickly incur considerable losses, well in excess of any tolerable limits.
The frustration of those of us arguing for pragmatic reforms and unbiased research should be evident. I am thankful that here in the United States, the SEC has at least begun to realize the need for more independence in its research and panels, and I hope that trend continues.
They want to think that machines are biddable and programs run smoothly. But with traders and market makers creating and deploying new systems and algorithms constantly, the danger of something going wrong is inevitable.
We have no shortage of great ideas for how to help dampen or eliminate the ill effects of high-frequency trading. We simply lack the will and the ability to push meaningful reform through our corporate-controlled, hyper-partisan government.
While it is true that HFTs have a vested interest in keeping market abuse to a minimum, it is not yet clear that their liquidity has been healthy enough to withstand the pressure of incoming regulations.
Is the SEC looking into traditional malfeasance -- the usual seamy kickbacks or bribes -- or the more esoteric: faster portals into exchange servers for certain select customers? This range of "advantages" may be built into the very concept of HFT. Will the SEC put HFT itself on trial?
The detection of abusive patterns must happen in real-time, before any suspicious behavior has a chance to move the market. Sensing and responding to market patterns before aberrations or errors have a chance to move prices is the right thing to do -- in all asset classes.