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Is the Entire Market Rigged?

May 17, 2011

by Cris Sheridan |

Rigged Market
Def: An illegal act or practice in which a person or company causes a price to be more favorable to an investor than market forces really justify. Rigged markets exist in order to attract investors to a company or project, but it is often not sustainable and in any case dupes the investor. There are a variety of ways to create a rigged market.

Long before I started working full-time in the financial industry, I used to work for a friend’s orchard company selling apples at nearby farmers’ markets. One Saturday, while stationed in Old Town San Diego, a scholarly looking man in his 50s and I began conversation over a few fresh cut samples.

“So what do you do?” I asked.

“I’m retired”, he responded proudly, “but now I mostly write.”

“Oh, do you write fiction?”

“No”, he said with slight disdain, “I write on the financial markets”. His answer gave me the feeling that fiction was silly and useless.

“Oh neat, I’m thinking of working my way into the financial field myself, any suggestions?” I just started working at a financial firm part-time. The prospects looked pretty good and I liked the company. This was finally somewhere I could see myself long-term.

“Don’t do it. The entire system is rigged. It’s just a big casino and it’s all going to crash down like a house of cards, probably soon. You’d be better off picking another line of business.” I felt my vision of future success and security whisked away from me. Maybe he’s just one person that lost a lot of money on a bad investment, I thought to myself. “Believe me, I’ve written books on this”, he said with an air of conceit before purchasing his bag of apples and walking away.

I managed to scribble down his name and the title of his most famous book before he left but, of course, I never read it. Why would I want to read something that just throws a bucket of cold water on my new found dreams anyways? Besides, he was kind of a jerk.

Much has happened since then. Perceptions change, new information arises.

With my background in math and having a strong affinity towards chaos theory and complex networks, I had previously operated under the assumption that the stock market was a highly dynamic system consisting of billions of interdependent parts that collectively operate at a level beyond human predictability and control. Thus, the idea of a person or group of people being able to rig the system seemed a bit far-fetched. At least, that was until relatively recent developments and research.

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