Barclays Bankers Bilk Their Clients

By Barry Elias | Thursday, 19 Nov 2015 10:45 PM

“Obfuscate and stonewall.”

That was a June 2011 directive from a Barclays managing director and head of automated electronic foreign exchange (FX) trading. It was the recommended response to inquiries from clients, the sales department, or virtually anyone else regarding bank transactions related to its BATS Last Look functionality, according to the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS).

The managing director further stressed in the email that one should “avoid mentioning the existence of the whole system.”

Barclays’ “Last Look” functionality enabled traders to cancel the execution of client foreign exchange orders if they were deemed unprofitable to the bank, even if they would be profitable to the client.

Milliseconds became the difference as to whether a trade was executed profitably. Since it could take this amount of time to transmit an order across the globe, the bankers were at a disadvantage relative to the high frequency traders, who can execute within nanoseconds. Instead of quoting greater buy/sell spreads to accommodate potential price movements, which would disenfranchise the algorithmic traders, Barclays opted to possess the right of first refusal for the trade on behalf of its client.

Clients and others were not told the trade terminations were the result of this business policy decision. Senior employees instructed traders and information technology employees not to inform the sales staff of Last Look and the underlying policy. Instead, the information conveyed was vague, misleading, or inaccurate – and sometimes they were not given any explanation. Blaming the malfunction on technical latency issues was a recommended strategy from management.

This case was unleashed during the forex rigging probe, for which Barclays agreed to pay about $2.4 billion to the DFS, the U.S. Justice Department, and other agencies, which included $485 million for its manipulation of forex spot trading. This settlement was part of the more than $5.6 billion agreement by six banks for manipulating the $5.3 trillion daily foreign exchange market. The other five banks include Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS.

Barclays recently agreed to pay $150 million to resolve the “Last Look” allegations of abuse in the foreign exchange market through its electronic trading platform: a very serious charge, since it intentionally sought unfair advantages over clients and counterparties through this venue. The DFS also required the bank to fire its global head of electronic fixed income, currencies and commodities automated flow trading. Barclays has not named the dismissed individual and has admitted to wrongdoing in this case.

This settlement will bring the total litigation provisions for Barclays Bank to about $13 billion since the beginning of the financial crisis. Litigation costs for all financial institutions since 2008 have reached nearly $219 billion, most of it borne by U.S. banks, led by Bank of America with about $70 billion, according to Moody’s, a rating agency. They expect more to come, especially from Deutsche Bank’s exposure to foreign exchange litigation and the Royal Bank of Scotland’s exposure to U.S. mortgage litigation.

Barclays is still not off the hook: It is being investigated for other potential misconduct, including possible manipulation of precious metals markets and payments to Qatari investors in its 2008 rights issue.

Even after the crisis, Barclays continued down the road not to be traveled.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Derivative Debacle Persists

By Barry Elias | Friday, 13 Nov 2015 06:53 AM

Taxpayers remain the backstop for risky swap derivative investments held by financial institutions.

In December 2014, the Congress rolled back provisions of the Dodd-Frank legislation as part of a must-pass government spending bill to prevent a total government shutdown. The original Dodd-Frank rules were designed to prevent future taxpayer bailouts of banks that arise from improper management of derivative contracts, including inadequate capital requirements for swaps.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently estimated approximately $9.7 trillion of swap derivatives remain on the balance sheets of 15 banks that are registered as swap dealers. This represents roughly 4.4 percent of the total outstanding derivative contracts at these institutions and is comprised of $6.1 trillion in credit derivatives, $2.6 trillion in equities derivatives. and $1 trillion in commodity derivatives.

If the taxpayers did not insure these swap products, counterparties would require banks to hold more collateral to offset potential losses, and this would undermine bank profit margins. Swap trades enable financial institutions to exchange payment streams, typically to lower interest rates or currency risks.

Sheila Bair, the former chair of the FDIC, has stated the swaps repeal represented a “classic backroom deal.” “There’s no way this would have passed muster if people had openly debated it, so [the banks] had to sneak it on to a must-pass funding bill. For an industry that purports to want to regain public trust, it was an extraordinary thing to do,” said Bair.

The net worth of the financial industry has been negative for most of the past 20 years, reaching a nadir of negative $1.46 trillion in April 2007 prior to the financial crisis. Following an injection of approximately $29 trillion in credit by the federal government in the form of asset purchases, guarantees, and loans during the crisis, the financial industry reached a peak net worth of $1.93 trillion in March 2009, only to see it plummet with the end of quantitative easing: It stood at negative $809 billion in June 2015.

The financial industry has been greatly subsidized by the taxpayers for many decades. It’s time we implement the bank bail-in rather than the bank bail-out.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Bank Bail-In Rather Than Bail-Out

By Barry Elias | Friday, 06 Nov 2015 07:02 AM

The Federal Reserve plans to rein in the extraordinary bank mismanagement that lead to the financial and economic collapse in 2008.

In a recent 5-0 ruling, the Fed will require 30 of the largest banks worldwide –global systemically important banks (GSIBs) – to maintain significantly more capital on their balance sheets to weather potential losses. The Fed recommends total loss absorbing capital, or TLAC, be set at or near 20 percent of assets, with half coming from equity and the other half from long-term debt provided by investors, which can then be converted to equity.

GSIBs are considered so large and interconnected that each could seriously threaten the solvency of the global financial system if it were to fail.

The thinking here: If some assets, such as loans, turn sour, and if equity capital is insufficient to cover the losses, the investor class will absorb the differential instead of the taxpayers-at-large: hence, a “bail-in” rather than a “bail-out.” As compensation for this added risk, the investors will command a higher rate of interest for lending funds to these financial institutions.

The GSIBs include U.S. subsidiaries of the largest global banks and eight U.S. banks: Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, State Street Corp., and Wells Fargo. The Fed estimates these banks will need to issue an additional $120 billion in long-term debt to meet the new requirement. An analysis by Barclays Bank suggests Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have already meet this standard, while Wells Fargo may need to issue as much as $86 billion in bonds to conform.

The ruling also requires banks to post collateral to cover losses for derivative trading that are conducted outside exchanges or clearinghouses. Many policymakers blame the $600 trillion global derivative market, which was deregulated by President Clinton in 2000, for hastening the financial implosion due to inadequate margin requirements and a high degree of speculation.

The proposed rule would also apply to the U.S. operations of foreign GSIBs. In this case, the U.S. entity would issue new long-term debt to (or borrow from) the foreign parent rather than selling bonds to external investors. Should a bank fail, the holding company would be seized by the federal authorities, but the subsidiaries would be permitted to continue operations.

If formally adopted, most of the requirements would take effect in 2019, with the remainder in 2022.

This new ruling comes on the heels of rules adopted by the Fed in July for the eight banks to increase their financial assets by about $200 billion in additional capital. This is also above and beyond the 2014 rules directing all large banks to hold adequate quantities of high-quality assets to survive a severe market fall. The banks are also required to pass “financial stress tests” and provide a “living will” that demonstrates how they could declare and proceed through a potential bankruptcy without taxpayer assistance.

The previous rulings have been characterized as the “belt” holding up the pants of the bank, while the new ruling represents the “suspenders” in the event the belt fails.

This policy is a prudent approach that should be implemented immediately.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Barclays Gets Washed Up in Dark Pools and High Frequency Trading

By Barry Elias | Friday, 30 Oct 2015 07:02 AM

Barclays Bank seems like it is next in line to settle with the authorities regarding its dark pool operations.

In recent years, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the New York State Attorney General (NYSAG) have focused on the disruptive nature of dark pools and high frequency trading: especially when used in tandem, as the authorities allege to be the case with Barclays Bank. The SEC and NYSAG claim Barclays misled its clients into believing high frequency traders would be less active in their LX dark pool trading venue.

Dark pools are essentially private, anonymous, off-exchange and opaque venues that permit the trading of exchange-listed securities. This structure helps camouflage the trading strategies of large financial institutions, such as mutual funds, pension funds, hedge funds, and insurance funds to afford them optimal profits or minimal losses. These venues are lightly regulated, require less public disclosure, do not carry the same protective margin requirements as the public exchange marketplaces, and allow banks to forego paying fees to exchanges for trade execution.

Dark pool trading as a percentage of total trading volume more than tripled from 4 percent in early 2008 to nearly 14 percent by the end of 2011, according to Rosenblatt Securities. Haoxiang Zhu, a financial economist at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the author of a new paper in the Review of Financial Studies, cites a study in which 71 percent of financial professionals believe dark pools are “somewhat” or “very” problematic in establishing stock prices.

Despite denying any wrongdoing and fighting this case, Barclays is in serious discussions to pay a fine of $65 million.

Thus far, two firms have agreed to pay fines related to this activity: $14 million by UBS Group and $20.3 million by Investment Technology Group, which has admitted to wrongdoing in its case. A third, Credit Suisse, has a planned agreement to pay an $85 million fine.

To evade recent proposals that would regulate and undermine dark pool trading, some U.S. banks are conducting their derivative trades through non-U.S. subsidiaries that do not have explicit guarantees from the U.S. parent.

The SEC and other regulatory bodies need to keep the playing field level for all, and where possible, prosecute individuals as a more effect deterrent.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Why Economists Fail


By Barry Elias | Friday, 23 Oct 2015 07:24 AM

I attended a presentation this past week at Cooper Union College in Manhattan by an economist promoting his new book.

I was rather aghast to hear him say: “No one” predicted the global economic crisis and experts did not foresee how slow the recovery would be.

Following the collapse of Bear Stearns on March 17, 2008, I divested most of my family’s investment portfolio from the market when the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered near 12,000. By September of that year, the Dow reached its nadir – around 6,500.

At that time, I expected the unemployment rate to double from 5 percent to 10 percent, which it did. I also suggested the global recovery may take a decade or two to return to robust growth, since the crisis was the result of financial mismanagement that spanned several decades.

Further, on May 6, 2010, the day of the infamous “Flash Crash,” my article entitled “Why I Divested From the Dow” was published: About six hours later, the Dow had plummeted about 1,000 points.

The Cambridge-educated economist that I alluded to earlier is Adair Turner, the chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking; a member of the United Kingdom’s Financial Policy Committee: and the former chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) until its abolition at the end of March 2013.

The FSA was an independent regulatory body for the financial services industry in the United Kingdom (U.K.) between 2001 and 2013. It was appointed by the Treasury and funded entirely by fees charged to financial firms.

Due to the apparent regulatory failure of banks during the financial crisis, the U.K. government abolished and replaced the “failed” FSA on April 1, 2013 with two new agencies: the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority of the Bank of England, in an effort to strengthen England’s financial system with a more forward-looking perspective.

While the FSA under Turner’s leadership presided over the near-total collapse of several major financial institutions, including the merger of Lloyds Bank with ailing HBOS in September 2008, Turner claimed in February 2009, as well as today, that other global regulatory authorities also failed to predict the economic collapse. He did not apologize for the actions of the FSA, and believes the intellectual failure was the result of a focus on processes and procedures, in lieu of the larger economic landscape.

Economists ought to take note of that admission and view the world with greater breadth and depth, especially before proposing public policy prescriptions that may have implications for many decades to come.

In his new book, Turner argues most credit formation is not necessary for economic development. He suggests excess credit drives real estate booms and wealth inequality, which then lead to financial crises and depression. Turner believes banks need to increase capital and reduce real estate lending, and debt needs to be taxed as a form of “economic pollution.” I wholeheartedly agree with the premise and prescriptions presented.

Income inequality is self-reinforcing, since wealthier households consume a smaller percentage of their income, and savings tend to be invested in short-term, speculative, and arbitraged financial assets. This dynamic undermines employment and economic growth for the masses as compared with direct investment. Favorable tax rates on investment income, especially for hedge fund managers, perpetuates this viscous cycle.

Since 1970, financial firms expanded credit among themselves and households seeking real estate, because it involved a simple and secure business model: real estate collateral valuations were more predictable as compared with the assessment of an entrepreneurial endeavor. This methodology permitted the excessive refinancing of existing assets, and less on the creation of new ones.

Financial firm credit skyrocketed from 10 percent of GDP in 1970 to 125 percent in 2008, while that for household credit rose from 40 percent to about 90 percent, which included toxic subprime mortgages. (During the same period, federal government debt as a share of GDP increased from 35 percent to 60 percent, and that for non-financial corporate debt rose slightly, from 35 percent to 40 percent.)

The financial firms essentially transferred wealth among themselves and others instead of creating new wealth. This led to less optimal employment and income growth for the masses, since direct investment in business endeavors was on the wane. Instead, financial products that were derived from preexisting assets exploded, and wealth and income inequality grew.

The net worth of the financial sector was negative from 1996 through 2007, reaching a nadir of negative $1.46 trillion in April 2007. Quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve following the financial crisis put the financial industry in positive territory, but it turned negative at the end of 2013, and by of June of 2015 it stood at negative $809 billion.

Why was the financial industry protected so well?

Some suggest a significant number of economists with keen academic and think-credentials regularly accept funding from corporations to provide “objective” analyses that actually promote corporate objectives and defy evidence and logic.

Let’s keep the economists honest and forward-looking, shall we?

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Too Big to Jail Is Being Tested by US LIBOR Trial

Friday, 16 Oct 2015 07:27 AM

Dollar banknotes, handcuffs and judge's gavel isolated on white

Financial behemoths have paid handsome penalties to settle criminal and civil charges related to manipulation of the LIBOR. Now American citizens may be in jeopardy, thereby disrupting the implication that bank employees are “too big to jail.”

In recent years, more than $5 billion have been ponied up by several financial institutions for these transgressions: $2.5 billion from Deutsch Bank, $1.5 billion from UBS, $450 million from Barclays, and $325 million from Rabobank. Other perpetrators include Citigroup, The Royal Bank of Scotland, JP Morgan, Lloyds, and ICAP.

LIBOR, or the London Interbank Offered Rate, is the interest rate paid by banks to borrow funds from other banks. It represents the average lending rate offered by the 16 participating banks. These offers are submitted daily to the British Bankers’ Association for five currencies and 7 borrowing periods, spanning overnight to one year loans. Other lenders, including financial institutions, mortgage banks, and credit card companies set their rates relative to these. It is estimated that $350 trillion of derivatives and other financial products are based on the LIBOR.

The Justice Department issued a memo last month that prioritizes the investigation of employees for financial malfeasance before seeking settlement with corporations. In an important test for U.S. prosecutors, two Rabobank employees are now being tried in a Manhattan federal court for manipulating LIBOR in order to benefit other Rabobank traders’ trading positions that were tied to the LIBOR. The traders on trial are Anthony Conti, a senior U.S. dollar trader, and Anthony Allen, a former global head of liquidity and finance, and supervisor of Rabobank’s Libor submitters, including Mr. Conti. They are alleged to have conspired to rig the rate on or about May 2006 through early 2011.

Thirteen individuals have been charged thus far in the U.S. in relation to the LIBOR investigation. While several defendants have pleaded guilty, including three other former Rabobank traders, none have gone to trial yet. Six former brokers accused of rigging LIBOR are currently on trial in the U.K. This comes on the heels of Tom Hayes’ conviction in London several months ago. He was a former UBS and Citigroup trader sentenced to 14 years for LIBOR manipulation.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke believes some Wall Street executives deserve jail time for their roles in the financial crisis, since individuals, not abstract firms, committed these crimes. He lays the blame with the Department of Justice and others who are responsible for enforcing the laws of our country.

Wide swaths of the political spectrum are extremely dismayed with the way the financial industry operates. In the recent debate, democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders claimed the banking business model is one predicated on “fraud.” And republican presidential candidate Donald Trump believes too many in the financial industry do not pay their fair share of taxes.

The maximum tax rate for capital gains on financial products is 23.8 percent, while that for ordinary income is 39.6 percent. Further, unlike ordinary income, capital gains are not subjected to social security taxes of 12.4 percent, which is shared equally by the employee and employer.

The only effective deterrent to financial misdeeds is the possibility of personal punishment.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Bankers Battle Banks

By Barry Elias | Friday, 09 Oct 2015 07:27 AM

Bank profit margins are expected to decline at an accelerating pace over the next five years as bankers team up with technology firms to provide more cost-effective products and services.

Technological competition is expected to reduce profits from non-mortgage retail lending, such as car loans and credit cards, by 60 percent and revenues by 40 percent over the next ten years. Profits and revenues for mortgages, wealth management, small and medium-sized lending, and payments processing are also slated to fall between 35 and 10 percent, and earnings on some financial products may decline by nearly two-thirds, according to McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.

Technology firms are focusing on the most lucrative segments of bank portfolios, especially those that involve customer relations. This will return banks to their roots as a utility: one that manages balance sheet assets and liabilities. McKinsey says banks generated $1.75 trillion of revenues in 2014 from origination and sales activities, earning a 22 percent return on equity, compared with $2.1 trillion of revenue and only a 6 percent return on equity for managing balance sheet net interest.

McKinsey calculates banks earned a record $1 trillion last year with a 9.5 percent return on equity. Nearly two-thirds of banks in developed markets and a third of those in emerging markets earned a return on equity below the cost of equity, causing their equity prices to fall below book value.

McKinsey expects this rate of return to plummet rapidly as bankers continue to enter technological finance as advisors, investors, board members, and company executives, such as former JP Morgan executive Blythe Masters, who is the current Chief Executive Officer of Digital Asset Holdings, a start-up that provides ledger and settlement services for digital and mainstream assets.

Thirteen more banks are now collaborating with R3CEV, a New York based start-up to develop a private, distributed ledger system for financial institutions, bringing the total to twenty-two financial institutions. In contrast, the bitcoin blockchain platform permits access to all and is secured by a digital token.

These 13 banks are: Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Bank of New York Mellon, Deutsche Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Commerzbank, National Australia Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, SEB, Société Générale and Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Nasdaq is also using the blockchain to set up a private share trading platform with Chain, a start-up that has received funding from Nasdaq, Citi Ventures and Visa.

The bitcoin blockchain methodology ensures more timely, efficient, cost-effective and secure asset ownership transfer. This will be especially useful for the syndicated loan market, where settlement can take 20 or more days to finalize.

The New York State Department of Financial Services recently approved two firms to operate Bitcoin exchanges: Gemini, founded by Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss, and ItBit. The Wicklevoss brothers are also working on a bitcoin-backed exchange-traded fund, which is expected to trade on the Nasdaq exchange and awaits regulatory approval.

Banks are beginning to brace for the coming seismic shifts of the financial terrain.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Treasury Market-Rigging Further Disrupts the Middle Class


By Barry Elias | Friday, 02 Oct 2015 06:48 AM

The U.S. Department of Justice and the New York State Department of Financial Services are looking into possible manipulation of the U.S. Treasury market by banks and brokers that serve as primary dealers to underwrite government debt.

To date, 23 lawsuits have been filed, with 2 more coming soon, that allege collusion by these institutions to enhance their profits at the expense of their investor clients. More than half of the cases brought forth thus far have been on behalf of pension funds, which predominantly serve the middle class.

The allegations claim the dealers inflated the price of newly issued Treasury securities that they sold to investors and lowered the price for securities they purchased from the U.S. Treasury. If accurate, this raises the cost of issuing Treasury security debt to taxpayers.

These cases include a comparable price analysis that was used in the market manipulation trials over the Libor — the London Interbank Offered Rate and the benchmark interest rate for lending between banks — and the currency markets, which resulted in more than $5.6 billion in penalties from six banks.

Gregory Asciolla, a partner at the law firm Labaton Sucharow, which is the lead counsel in two cases that involve the State-Boston Retirement System and Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, claims the auction and pre-auction market — also known as “when issued” — are “rigged.”

The Cleveland Bakers and Teamsters Pension Fund alleges the price was reduced in 69 percent of the auctions for securities in the secondary market — or those already in circulation. This analysis included data between 2007 and 2015.

Declining comment are the U.S. Treasury, The Federal Reserve Bank, and primary dealers contacted by The Financial Times.

Once again, high powered financial institutions continue to prosper at the expense of the middle class.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Banks Bank on Saving Billions Using Bitcoin Blockchain


By Barry Elias | Friday, 25 Sep 2015 09:36 AM

Banks are investing millions of dollars in the development of the bitcoin blockchain technology in the hopes of saving billions of dollars down the road.

Nine investment banks are collaborating with start-up R3CEV, a New York-based group of trading and technology executives, to develop governing standards and procedures to implement a more effective and efficient settlement system for asset movements between counterparties. They have invested several millions of dollars in seed capital with R3CEV thus far for the research, experimentation and design of prototypes.

The blockchain methodology is viewed as an instant, real time update of payment ledgers in multiple locations without a single, centralized authority overseeing the process. Banks, financial exchanges, and settlement clearinghouses are exploring how to harness this technology for the automatic execution of contracts that could potentially save billions of dollars in bank operational expenditures.

The nine investment banks are Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, State Street, RBS, BBVA, and UBS. Many banks, including Barclays and UBS, are working toward their own blockchain model or partnering with other start-ups, as a way to hedge their bets and align with the best possible option in the future.

Advocates of this industry collaboration point to the successes of other ventures such as the Depository Trust Clearing Corporation, to clear trades for corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, and money market instruments; the CLS, to clear funds for global currency trades; and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a global financial messaging system.

Circle Internet Financial recently became the first firm to be issued a BitLicense by the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), permitting it to offer digital-currency services in New York. The company was founded two years ago and backed by Goldman Sachs.

The DFS said 22 firms applied for the license, including CoinSetter, Consensys, Gemini (founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss), ItBit, and Symbiant, and it expects more approvals shortly.

The BitLicense was originally introduced by then- DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky in January 2014. The license allows digital-currency firms to expand their services while protecting clients with anti-money-laundering compliance and cybersecurity protocols.

Circle is able to offer mobile payment services to receive, hold, and send U.S. dollars and bitcoins via text messaging that does not require conversions from one form to the other.

Circle is pursuing this same option with other currencies, such as the euro.

There seems to be no turning back from bitcoin.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Market Manipulation Is Menacing to the Middle Class


By Barry Elias | Friday, 18 Sep 2015 05:54 AM

Wealth and income inequality has risen substantially since the Great Recession, and market manipulation is making matters even worse for the middle class.

Richard Grasso, former chairman and chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange from 1995 to 2003, suggests the average person is severely disadvantaged relative to Wall Street institutions and the causes need to be thoroughly investigated and corrected.

Prompting this remark was stock trading the morning of August 24, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked approximately 1,000 points within the first six minutes on news of a dire Chinese economy that may portend poorly for the world.

The large sell orders precipitated nearly 1,300 trading halts, as ETF indices were unable to execute transactions in an optimal fashion and prices fell below the underlying stocks they held. TD Ameritrade experienced volumes 10 times larger than average in the first half-hour of trading, causing severe price volatility: 30 percent for Facebook within several minutes as its price moved from $86 to $72 to $84.  (Trading is halted for five minutes when there is a price move of 5 percent or more in either direction.)

Ironically, the ETF products are marketed to middle-America so they can participate in the American dream of investing in a cost-effective and diversified manner. However, the lack of adequate trading liquidity and the capital losses that result may greatly offset the low trading cost.

Grasso believes high frequency traders receive proprietary trading information ahead of others and transaction speed trumps competition and fairness. He suggests the trading of shares on more than 60 venues makes execution at the best possible price quite difficult and costly to the little guy.

Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., also says the stock market is overly complex and needs simplification.

Evidence of market rigging has been uncovered in the pricing of the gold fix, LIBOR and foreign currency exchange.

Recently, 12 banks and two institutions agreed to pay $1.87 billion to settle allegations that they manipulated the $16 trillion credit default swap market by prohibiting exchanges from placing these products on open, regulated platforms where pricing is more transparent.

The 12 banks named in the suit are Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribus, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS, along with the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) and Markit Group, a data provider.

The Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association and several Danish pension funds claimed the banks influenced the ISDA to deny intellectual property to the exchanges, such as auction price data.

As part of the agreement, the ISDA will form a committee, comprised of banks and investors that are independent of its board of directors, to license credit derivative products to exchange-like venues.

Currently, ISDA decisions are made by its board, which until 2009 was comprised entirely of bank representatives.

Dark pools have also been under intense scrutiny lately. These venues permit stock trading with greater anonymity than on the stock market exchange, amounting to a competitive disadvantage to many.

Credit Suisse tentatively agreed to pay $85 million to New York and the federal authorities for this practice. Last month, Investment Technology, a New York Brokerage, set aside $20.3 million to settle allegations of wrongdoing.

In January, the UBS Group agreed to pay $14 million for creating an unfair playing field using dark pools. And Barclays is in negotiations with the New York State Attorney General and the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding their involvement in this area.

The middle class has been ill-served by the current financial climate. Perhaps progress is afoot.

© 2015 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.