That same day, Sarao and his firm, Nav Sarao Futures Limited Plc, used “layering” and “spoofing” algorithms to trade thousands of futures S&P 500 E-mini contracts. The orders amounted to about $200 million worth of bets that the market would fall, a trade that represented between 20 percent and 29 percent of all sell orders at the time. The orders were then replaced or modified 19,000 times before being canceled in the afternoon.
About three weeks later, Sarao told his broker that he had just called the CME and told them to “kiss my ass,” the affidavit said.
Inside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, time was running out to answer a question that would change Wall Street forever.
At issue that September, six years ago, was whether the Fed could save a major investment bank whose failure might threaten the entire economy.
The firm was Lehman Brothers. And the answer for some inside the Fed was yes, the government could bail out Lehman, according to new accounts by Fed officials who were there at the time.
Those teams had provisionally concluded that Lehman might, in fact, be a candidate for rescue, but members of those teams said they never briefed Mr. Geithner, who said he did not know of the results.
→ The New York Times
Geithner paused for a moment. “Can you design a system ever that allows you to be indifferent to the failure of any institution, in any state of the world?” he asked aloud before answering his own question. “You can design a system, and I think we have, that allows you to be indifferent in most states of the world: the five-year flood, the 15-year flood, the 30-year flood, maybe even the 50-year flood,” he said. “But there are constellations of storms, of panics, of fires that are so bad that it’s very hard to imagine that you could be indifferent to the failure of the financial system.”
→ The New York Times Magazine
Well, on September 16, 2008, Lehman was not that big of a deal :
Other than the CDS moves and the equity moves on the other broker-dealers, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, I don’t think that that is the real specter that’s casting some question over broader financial institutions. I think the Lehman situation, no matter what judgment we made this past weekend about whether or not to provide official-sector money, is not what is driving markets broadly outside of the investment banks. What’s driving the broader uncertainty are questions about institutions like AIG that were rated AAA, that were so strong that counterparties didn’t need collateral, and that were a certain bet to be a guarantor around stable value funds and all sorts of other products. If in a matter of weeks that AAA rating and that security could turn out to be worthless
→ Federal Reserve
My feeling is that the answer is no. You can make the argument that this is a coercive distressed exchange, and that coercive distressed exchanges are one way of defaulting. But default is a fraught word, and I don’t think it should be used lightly. In this case, when the exchange is genuinely voluntary for all but the Greek banks, it seems weird to call it a default. Especially when the bonds are trading at their all-time highs.
→ Felix Salmon