A heated debate over whether the markets are “rigged” nearly brought the New York Stock Exchange to a standstill Tuesday as author Michael Lewis battled Wall Street traders and CNBC analysts.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 01: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after the ringing the Opening Bell on April 1, 2014 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq were both higher in early trading Tuesday (Getty Images)
Lewis’ newest book, “Flash Boys,” which relies heavily on the testimony of Brad Katsuyama of the IEX Group, argues that the stock market is fixed game, a claim that has ruffled a lot of feathers on Wall Street.
“[The] stock market’s rigged. The United States stock market, the most iconic market in global capitalism, is rigged,” Lewis said in a recent “60 Minutes” exposé, “by a combination of these stock exchanges, the big Wall Street banks and high-frequency traders.”
So CNBC decided to bring Lewis, Katsuyama and BATS Global Markets President William O'Brien together for a debate on the book’s claim.
As it turns out, O’Brien is not a fan of the “rigged” argument.
"Shame on both of you for falsely accusing literally thousands of people and possibly scaring millions of investors in an effort to promote a business model," O’Brien shouted at Lewis and Katsuyama.
"You want to do this? Let's do this," Katsuyama, who has stated in the past that the markets are “rigged,” said in response to O’Brien’s questioning.
"I really do," O'Brien said.
"I believe the markets are rigged and I also think you're part of the rigging," Katsuyama said.
The two Wall Street heavyweights then battled each other over the nature of the markets as traders “stood transfixed,” watching the debate as it unfolded, CNBC reported.
The discussion then shifted to Lewis who was asked by CNBC’s Sue Herera whether he has a secret stake in Katsuyama's IEX Group.
“Are you an investor in Brad's exchange?” she asked.
“No!” Lewis responded.
“I'm just asking for full disclosure,” she continued, defending her line of questioning. “Call me kooky, I'm being a journalist."
“Absolutely not! Are you insane?” the author said.
“No, I'm not. I'm trying to do my job!” Herera said.
“I'm just trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the stock market. And big investor after big investor said there's one guy who's an honest broker in all of this,” Lewis explained, referring to Katsuyama. “He's come into our office and explained how all of this works. Go talk to him. He's the only guy on Wall Street who can actually tell you the truth about the stock market.”
The segment eventually came to a close, each party exiting the discussion more convinced of his position than when the debate began.
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