Unfortunately, the Aleynikov apparently didn’t quite measure up to be Michael Lewis’ muse, and so the world got Flash Boys.

In 2009, he received a call from an old contact, a lawyer, who said he had a client Lewis might be interested in writing about. This was Sergey Aleynikov, the former Goldman Sachs programmer arrested by the FBI and ultimately jailed for “stealing code” from the bank. “It’s an incredible story,” says Lewis, “and I said yeah, yeah, yeah and ignored him for a year and a half.” During that time, he mulled over what could be so valuable as to justify what looked, from the outside, like an extraordinary overreaction on the part of Goldman Sachs.

“I didn’t understand the code – what had he taken? It was very fishy, the way Goldman Sachs reacted to it. No matter how valuable it was, calling the FBI was a really extreme thing to do. And to do it so quickly. And it was pretty clear from the newspaper descriptions that no one understood what he’d taken.” Lewis spoke to a few investors, started looking into high-frequency trading, and was ultimately told about someone who would go on to motor his whole story, Brad Katsuyama, or as he was described to Lewis at the time: “There’s this one guy who works for the Royal Bank of Canada.”

And in related-ish news:

“I find this story really upsetting,” he says over lunch in LA, where his publicity tour just ended. “The idea that the smartest, richest elites of society find this an acceptable activity. This predatory activity….”

Not all of it has been positive. Prominent in reviews of the book has been the critique that Lewis has created a false set of heroes and – particularly from financial journalists – that none of this stuff is new in the first place.

“And that’s a ton of horseshit, because I’ve watched Katsuyama educate the world. It’s his story. His knowledge starts in ’08. And if you knew this already, why didn’t you do something about it?…”

The accident of his career is, he says, that he has been so well-placed to document an industry “that has gone insane. The financial markets have generated this fantastic material. I don’t think anything else like this will walk in my door.”

Michael Lewis: ‘Wall Street has gone insane’ [Guardian]

15 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (15)

  1. Posted by HotKarl | April 21, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    Who the fuck dressed that guy for his court appearance? Helen Keller?

  2. Posted by Capt Oblivious | April 21, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    I find Michael Lewis very irritating. Dude you were a bond trader for like a year and a half. Give it a rest. As far as HFT, as an individual investor it has zero effect. It is the big boys who get poked and I'm okay with that they have been screwing everyone else for years.

    In Communist Russia, boys flash YOU!!!!!

  3. Posted by Guest | April 21, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    Like a year and a half @ Salomon > A full life at UBS

  4. Posted by Guest | April 21, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    It was Jos A Banks, you moron. That's how the sixth free suit looks like. Wouldn't be caught dead in a Helen Keller suit.

  5. Posted by Guest | April 21, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    It was Jos A Banks, you moron. That's how the sixth free suit looks like. I guess when you go for the free stuff, sometimes you lose your freedom. Pretty ironic, huh.

  6. Posted by Quant me maybe... | April 21, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    Arresting Russians, in general, is a good idea.

    >South Asians, too.

  7. Posted by Guest | April 21, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    And whose money is it that the "big boys" play with?

  8. Posted by H.K. | April 21, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    . . . . . . ..
    .. . . . . . .
    . . . . . . .

  9. Posted by Battered Guest | April 21, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    Dude, it's either how it looks or what it looks like, not both. If we're still talking Helen Keller, then it would be how it feels or what it feels like.

  10. Posted by Guest | April 21, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    Do you think ESL books were available in the times of Helen Keller?

  11. Posted by Guest | April 21, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    In Soviet Russia, good Russian arrest general idea.

  12. Posted by Guest | April 22, 2014 at 1:29 AM

    Not exactly zero effect. More like a few dollars, which is admittedly not that different from zero. Problem is that my few dollars, along with those of millions of other people, all wound up in the same few pockets.

  13. Posted by Guest | April 22, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    Good Russian generals arrest idea?

  14. Posted by Guest | April 22, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    How does Michael Lewis know GS called the FBI?

  15. Posted by Boe Smith Bobby J | April 22, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    I guess it does not make a good made for movie book if the FBI was actually simply monitoring–as they do–and just found some suspicious activity…like stuff being uploaded to a server in Germany from a US corporate. Since there is a real lack of cyber crime these days–that certainly would not raise an flags….