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Lewis Wants to Open the Doors Wall Street Locks: Opening Line

Michael Lewis
Bloomberg View columnist Michael Lewis, author of “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” poses for a portrait in Berkeley, California, Photographer: Peter DaSilva/Bloomberg

No, Michael Lewis isn’t trying to be the conscience of Wall Street, although the job appears to be open.

“I hardly function as my own conscience,” Lewis wrote last night in an e-mail to us moments after his appearance in a ‘60 Minutes’ story about his book on high-frequency trading. These traders have managed, according to Lewis’s ‘Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt,’ to rig markets unfairly and legally (for now). The ‘60 Minutes’ piece also introduced the IEX Group, an electronic exchange that has figured out how to nullify the HFT advantage. For his book, Lewis recounts how IEX’s Brad Katsuyama, RBC’s former U.S. trading desk head, unraveled what had been a mystery of why orders executed in a normal transaction usually showed up late and partially filled. Lewis, the former Salomon Brothers trader, is the author of ‘Liar’s Poker’ and `The Big Short,’ two previous books that peeled the Wall Street onion. “Wall Street is just a gift that keeps on giving. The stories it generates just keep on getting better,” Lewis said in the e-mail. ‘Flash Boys’ will educate “an ordinary reader -- who for good reason has not the first clue how the financial markets currently operate.” Read more here from Nick Baker and Sam Mamudi.


Is the Barclays job too big for Antony Jenkins? Return on equity is sliding, compensation costs in investment banking are rising instead of falling like he said they would, the stock is down and shareholders are cranky, Ambereen Choudhury and Elisa Martinuzzi report today. What’s more, new regulations in Europe on compensation that have already prompted changes to corporate structure at competitors, including UBS and Credit Suisse, will require a plan from that the chief executive officer that has yet to be produced. And the annual meeting is coming up. “There’s a feeling he has lost control of the business,” Christopher Wheeler, an analyst at Mediobanca SpA, wrote to clients last week. There’s a lot of work to be done at Barclays, the story finds, and some doubt over whether it will be.


Stock-index futures in the U.S. were higher at 5:50 a.m. in New York following gains in markets in Europe and Asia. S&P 500 Index futures were up about 0.5 percent. The MSCI All Country World Index was up 0.3 percent and the Turkish lira rose following local elections that bolstered Erdogan’s AKP party. Treasuries and the yen fell.


As questions mount over how the kids of China’s elite wind up working for the world’s largest banks, Deutsche Bank is contemplating whether to step aside from China General Nuclear Power Group’s initial public offering, three people familiar with the deliberations told Cathy Chan. JPMorgan Chase has already had to skip two IPOs amid a U.S. criminal investigation into whether it violated anti-bribery laws in its hiring practices there, while its investment banking chief in Asia retired last week two days before Hong Kong investigators seized records from his office.


Erdogan celebrated his party’s gains in Turkey’s nationwide local elections yesterday by vowing to bring a stronger democracy without interference from Twitter or YouTube and to pursue the “traitors” who tried to defeat him. Not everyone was celebrating, though.

In France, Socialist party candidate Anne Hidalgo won the mayor’s office in Paris, while elsewhere around the country, Hollande’s Socialists were ousted from mayoralties in Toulouse, Limoges, Reims and Albertville. Socialists won 40.6 percent of the vote, the UMP party and affiliates won 45.9 percent, and Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Front party won 6.8 percent.


Taiwanese numbering 100,000 to as many as 350,000 poured into the streets of Taipei yesterday to protest a pending trade deal between Taiwan and China, which claims Taiwan as its territory even though Taiwan has been quasi-independent since about 1950. Unrest in Taiwan over the agreement has been mounting for a couple weeks. Protests in the legislative chamber March 18 over the agreement with China, which would open the island’s services industry to Chinese competition, were followed by the seizure of the cabinet building on March 23. A trade deal that would bring a former dependent state in closer ties with its former (depending on your point of view) motherland. This has a ring to it, doesn’t it?


One of the longer expanses of the patent bridge the trolls are living under involves software, and today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Alice v. CLS Bank International, a case with landmark potential that could affect almost half the country’s patent suits, Greg Stohr and Sue Decker report. In this case, neither party to the suit is a so-called nonperforming entity, i.e., a “troll” who has no business in the business other than to buy or own a patent that can be used to extort money from a company or person who uses technology that might fit the patent’s description. The justices will decide just how broad and abstract an idea in software can be before it’s restricted from patent protection. If the court adds restrictions, vast quantities of patents could be wiped out, Decker and Stohr say. While the case is being decided, work is under way in U.S. Congress.


The world’s climate is changing, no matter what anyone says, and it’s probably worse than we think, the UN reports today. Lives, food and fresh water, communications and infrastructure are at risk from rising sea levels, droughts or flooding. “The climate changes that have already occurred have been widespread and have really had consequences,” Chris Field, the U.S. professor who co-led the scientists drafting today’s report, told Alex Morales and Chisaki Watanabe. “It’s not the case that climate change is a thing of the future.”


In Asia, North Korea and South Korea are shooting stuff near each other, and Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic is not for scientific purposes and must be halted for now, the World Court ruled about a half-hour ago.


We bought our first house almost four years ago and it remains the scariest thing we’ve ever done, except for that one night in 1981 with a Van Halen roadie and his girlfriend and writing this column. One of the many things that keep us up at night is how we’re going keep all these balls in the air until it’s time at the end to unwind our position -- the job and the paycheck, saving for retirement, staying out of the hospital, and this house in the woods. Living life requires courage, whether you’re comfortable or not. It’s the fear of everything crashing down that’s evoked in today’s story from Jeanna Smialek, who finds homeowners younger than 40 took a harder hit from the Great Recession than older people. Wealth adjusted for inflation remains 30 percent below 2007 levels on average, according to research by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, her story finds, and the collapse in housing wealth accounted for about 40 percent of the shortfall in consumer spending between 2006 and 2009 relative to its previous trend. Without the spending on homes and lives from those in the sweet spot of their lives, the economic engine has no fuel.


The world watched with horror when Islamic militants began their destruction of the ancient shrines of Timbuktu in 2012, so it is hoped the world will rise with courage as the city in Mali now begins to reconstruct these World Heritage sites brick by brick. Driven out eventually by French and UN forces, the groups affiliated with al-Qaeda left towering achievements from the 14th and 15 centuries in rubble. “By rebuilding these monuments, we will destroy the work of the jihadists,” says Andrzej Bielecki, the European Union’s political counselor. So far, $3 million of the $11 million needed for the four-year rebuilding project has been raised, Francois Rihouay reports. We’ve got a few bucks for that.


Miguel Cabrera, who turns 31 on April 18, dethroned Alex Rodriguez as the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball history when he agreed to a 10-year, $292 million contract to stay with the Detroit Tigers, ESPN reported Friday. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, he won’t be around to comment on it (or to play alongside Derek Jeter during Jeter’s final season.) For perspective, that contract is $1 million less than the Dodgers’ total revenue in 2013, according to Forbes magazine, and more than the GDP of Sao Tome and Principe. The Tigers’ total revenue that year was $262 million, Forbes says, which puts the team’s entire value currently at $680 million.


Kentucky held off Michigan to complete the card for the NCAA Final Four. It had to be Kentucky and their lovable head coach John Calipari. It’s good in a way: One school with that sense of entitlement had to be left standing. They’ll play the No. 2 seed from the West region, Wisconsin, on April 5 after the No. 1 seed from the South, University of Florida, plays the East’s No. 7 seed, University of Connecticut. On Wisconsin.

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