The high frequency trading post I did not write

I intended to write this post about high frequency trading. The idea was to link to a very enlightening podcast that aired yesterday on “Taking Stock” with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Radio. Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge was on the program talking to Pimm about what High Frequency Trading is, who the participants are and why it is or why it is not a good thing. I found Durden, who spoke with a slight accent, to be very knowledgeable about the topic and fairly even-handed in his analysis (he is anonymous and uses a pseudonym from the cult film Fight Club, so I do not know his true identity. I reckon he is foreign-born based on his speaking voice).

But the podcast and any mention of Durden disappeared from Bloomberg’s site. Here is my iTunes list of podcasts with Durden sandwiched between a segment with John Taylor, a professor at Stanford, and a report on Jack in the Box.

itunes-podcast-list

Here is a list of the podcasts on Bloomberg the last time I checked right before I wrote this post.

bloomberg-podcasts-feed

The Durden podcast is missing. And Durden is nowhere to be found on Bloomberg’s site even though he did a show with Pimm Fox just yesterday.

bloomberg-durden-search

Why is that?

Here’s what I think.  Tyler Durden became radioactive overnight due to a post in the NY Post and Bloomberg scrubbed him off their site. Here’s a blurb from that article.

A 30-year-old New Yorker who was barred from the securities industry last year may be behind an increasingly popular financial blog known as Zerohedge.com, which is catching flack for its obsession with anonymity.

Daniel Ivandjiiski, whose most recently listed address is on the Upper East Side, was barred last September by the financial industry’s self regulatory authority, FINRA, for insider trading.

Ivandjiiski is also suspected of being one of the founders of controversial financial blog Zerohedge.com, sources tell The Post.

Ivandjiiski didn’t return requests for comment, but he recently told industry publication Hedge Fund Alert that while he writes for Zerohedge, he’s not a founder.

So, can you see why Bloomberg decided to scrub him? I reckon Bloomberg are now wondering whether Tyler Durden is a good source of information and have decided to treat him like a pariah until his true identity (and those with whom he is affiliated) is well-established. 

This issue has unleashed a debate in the blogosphere about anonymous blogging and the relationship between established mainstream media sources like Bloomberg and bloggers like Durden.  Both Felix Salmon and Yves Smith have picked up on this story today.  Read their posts. To date, Dennis Kneale, a host on CNBC,  has been the one most vociferous about econobloggers and their credibility or lack thereof.  He has made it known on a number of occasions that he sees Zero Hedge and Durden in a negative light.

My personal view is this: If one is going to write a blog that points fingers and names names, to the degree one can, one should be as transparent as possible about one’s identity and reveal all relevant information publicly. To my mind, this enhances credibility. 

Zero Hedge is a site replete with copious information on finance and the economy and is often a necessary voice of scepticism in the blogosphere that keeps the mainstream media honest.  We need outlets like that.  And Tyler was on Bloomberg Radio in the first place because he has something to say that is different, interesting and adds value. However, the hyperbole, tone, anonymity and confusion as to which writer is using which pseudonym at Zero Hedge has long become a liability which reduces the credibility of the site.

My preference would be to see Tyler Durden come out and reveal his identity and the identity of those with whom he works or indicate on some basic level why he cannot do so.  If not, instituting a one blogger/one pseudonym policy would be advisable. And tone it down, please! As to whether one can glean important information from sites whose authors remain anonymous and whose agenda is unknown, it is a complicated issue. I tend to think it is the message that is important and not the messenger.  But, the message in finance is often complicated and many can become confused as to who is real deal and who is a charlatan.

As things stand now, Durden and Zero Hedge are losing credibility – so much so that it does seem they have been scrubbed off of Bloomberg’s website and podcasts. This is a loss for all of us who follow Zero Hedge, especially for those of us who write in the financial blogosphere. And that’s also why this post is not about high frequency trading.

Update 11:00PM: A commenter on naked capitalism found the link to the Bloomberg podcast with Pimm Fox and Tyler Durden.  I am posting it here for as long as it remains live.

26 Comments
  1. anonymous says

    here you go ed – full TD interview, still fully available on bloomberg:
    http://media.bloomberg.com/bb/avfile/Markets/Analyst_Calls/vrT.qGWIoYPk.mp3

    1. Edward Harrison says

      Ha! I beat you to it and posted the link just a while ago. But, thank you for alerting me nonetheless.

      Ed

      1. anonymous says

        So does that mean you have to completely change the thesis of your article?

        1. Edward Harrison says

          Absolutely. Bloomberg is the same outfit that is taking on the Fed about their lack of transparency by suing them under the freedom of information act:

          https://pro.creditwritedowns.com/2008/11/bloomberg-news-sues-fed-under-freedom.html

          Why in the world are they scrubbing stuff from their site? It angers me, frankly. maybe they have a good reason – probably not, though.

          Nevertheless, it raises the question of whether Zero Hedge is a reputable source of information. I would say they generally are but the quality of the information is uneven. And this mixed with the whole manifesto, anonymity stuff makes them a target and also reduces their credibility.

          Obviously, someone seeking to maintain the status quo is working to discredit them and they are well-advised to see this as an opportunity to make everything they do on the site above board.

          In my view, we are living through a media period like the early days of the Iraq War when the mainstream media sold out and an alternative media sprang up to fill the void. I would like to Zero hedge be a well-regarded part of that effort. Perhaps this can change things from business as usual on Wall Street and Washington.

          One can disagree about whether ZH is taking the right approach in presenting an alternative media voice, but we (bloggers) all want them to succeed.

          1. anonymous says

            Fair enough. However, as far as I am concerned, if, and any information sourced by the NY POST is a big if, a key contributor of ZH was indeed barred from the securities industry, it would explain much about their motivation to disclose the garbage going on behind the scenes. In the meantime, ZH has become one critical thing – a completely anonymous conduit for insiders to present dirt on the system, where there was none before. I think they should steadfastly stick to their manifesto, regardless if some people think it detracts from their credibility: what it does provide is a sense of confidence in whoever contributes there that even such provocations as the NY Post article will not force the authors/editors to engage the mainstream media.

          2. Edward Harrison says

            I hear you on sticking to the manifesto but i disagree. I think they should take a Blodget/Spitzer approach now that they have some credibility in the blogosphere. The fact that Durden got on Bloomberg radio suggests this route was making inroads until someone with an agenda outed him.

            I don’t think anonymity will protect them against lawsuits. A friend, the guy running the Implode-O-Meter, has been having to fight his own battles with lawsuits, many of them spurious. This reminds me that people will do anything to discredit you.

            I think the right response is to do an end run by co-opting the mainstream media as HuffPo or Politico have done. the US vs. them approach, which is how I see ZH, is less effective in changing things.

            But, I understand you have a different opinion, am I right?

          3. Edward Harrison says

            By the way, Bruce Krasting had some interesting things to say about how mainstream media ‘changed’ its attitude toward him because of his tangential association with ZH. Read it on Yves Smith’s comment section.

            this kind of thing is despicable and why the status quo has lasting power. There are all sorts of barriers erected that impede change – one of them being people’s understandable reluctance to associate with others labeled ‘disreputable.’

            While I am not affiliated with Zero hedge, I will continue to link out to them irrespective.

          4. Gwahir says

            “Nevertheless, it raises the question of whether Zero Hedge is a reputable source of information.”

            No it raises their credibility. They are employing people who know how the game is played (although this guy was a bit foolish to get caught for 780$). Read citiboy about the mindset. And who pays for and profits from cnbc?

            ZH is about using your own brain. I would appreciate better quality sometimes, but then there are high quality comments clarifying things. Don’t expect to get spoon-fed.

          5. Edward Harrison says

            I’m actually looking at this thing from the position of affecting change. Here we are 2 months into the greatest financial crisis since the Depression and it looks like business as usual for all intents and purposes. Why is that?

            My answer is that the defenders of the status quo are very effective at protecting their turf.

            So, you have two alternatives in dealing with that: unmask yourself as the enemy with a frontal assault, taking on all the counter-attack this will engender; or try a more subtle approach in which you insinuate yourself into a more prominent and well-connected position from which to affect change.

            I clearly prefer the latter route which I see as making a difference with the political blogosphere. ZH prefers the latter approach. Both can be effective, but ZH’s approach is most effective in times of acute stress and crisis. IMO, that time has passed (for the moment).

          6. Gwahir says

            I see your point. ZH expects the crisis to come back rather soon … and he is playing a momentum game. Things add up – and he knows some ugly things, so more evidence is needed.

            Nassim Taleb is sceptic as well
            http://coyoteprime-runningcauseicantfly.blogspot.com/2009/08/nassim-taleb-nouriel-roubini-black-swan.html
            [Well Roubini had Summers on his payroll, so he is a defender]
            Liquidity does not replace solvency.

          7. Edward Harrison says

            Oh, and i meant two years into the greatest financial crisis. I’m sure you figured that out.

          8. TwoJacks says

            Couldn’t we apply Occam’s Razor to Bloomberg’s scrubbing action? They want to maintain their legitimacy as a financial news source, and if it looks like they gave any air time to a person barred from the securities industry for insider trading, it makes them look bad. Nothing more to that action than that. This doesn’t call into question Zero Hedge’s credibility, it merely shows that Bloomberg reacted hastily to an unconfirmed story. And that is too bad, for them.

          9. Edward Harrison says

            Exactly my point! It is the message, not the messenger.

            I took it one step further in my post asking, “what if the messenger has a past?” The answer is “so what. If he’s saying something of value, I want to hear it.” That’s why I posted.

            However, and this is the key and something i know about, if you’re going to threaten the status quo, you have to know they will come after you. And that means you should do everything you can to be above board.

            Look at Henry Blodget. He has rehabilitated himself. Same for Spitzer.

          10. TwoJacks says

            “However, and this is the key and something i know about, if you’re going to threaten the status quo, you have to know they will come after you.”

            Which is why the anonymity works so well. You have to answer the content of the attack, not the messenger delivering it.

            What you just said reads as if you believe the story, as if TD needs to “come out” and gain redemption before his words have credibility. Nonsense.

          11. Edward Harrison says

            To be honest, I’m looking at it from the perspective of race here. To be blunt, a lot of minorities feel that you have to do everything you can to be above board for much the same reason that I feel ZH needs to be (threat to the status quo).

            So, yes, TD’s coming out helps do that. I understand why they are anonymous: Calculated Risk, Tanta and Yves Smith are/were also semi-anonymous also.

            But, partially because of my own experience, I tend to think it puts them in a situation that will ultimately limit their effectiveness.

          12. Edward Harrison says

            One more thing: when I say above board I mean being extra careful in fact checking and just not posting when the facts can’t be verified.

            My biggest objection/worry, whatever you call it is that ZH contributors do not aspire to this journalistic standard, which undermines their credibility.

  2. anonymous says

    The comparison to Calculated Risk and Tanta is interesting. Since they were anonymous I initially took what they were saying with a grain of salt (they could have been kids). But they quickly developed a reputation for factual, objective and very in-depth commentary so I didn’t need a bio to trust their judgment.

    In contrast, ZH regularly posts stuff that is not fact checked and turns out to be wrong. When I see them wrong so much about the area where I have expertise I can’t possibly trust their content in those areas where I don’t have expertise.

    So ZH has no name, no bio, an unreliable blogging record and now suspect ethics. People seem to think that access to a Bloomberg and many viewers gives them credibility but my experience says it doesn’t.

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