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Hedge Fund Chicanery

Date: 04-21-13
Host: John B. Wells
Guests: Les Leopold

John B. Wells was joined by author Les Leopold for a discussion on his latest book, How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour, which examines how hedge funds make money by taking it from the rest of us. He explained that hedge funds consist of massive amounts of money possessed by the "super, super rich" and used, essentially, as an instrument to create more wealth. "When we talk about Wall Street gambling," he declared, "this is the casino." Hedge fund managers, Leopold noted, profit by multiplying this money for their clients using "extremely tricky" and even illegal means, such as rumor mongering or insider trading.

One nefarious technique used by some hedge fund managers to multiply their money, he said, is high frequency trading. He revealed that this process involves using sophisticated computers to buy and sell stocks at enormously fast rates, beyond what human traders can accomplish. While one sale of a stock using this method may net only pennies, Leopold marveled that these computers can perform such minutely profitable trades "millions of times an hour." He claimed that high frequency trading generates between 5 and 20 billion dollars a year for some hedge fund managers. Leopold likened it to a hidden sales tax, collected from the average person's savings and pension plans, that is collected by these high frequency traders every time a stock is bought or sold.

Leopold blamed the profit driven machinations of hedge funds, in tandem with large banks, as the impetus for the economic collapse and called for reforms to prevent it from further damaging the economy. To that end, he endorsed eliminating loopholes which allow hedge fund owners and managers to avoid paying taxes on their income, since it is classified as capital gains rather than profit. Additionally, Leopold suggested a small sales tax on the buying and selling of stocks, which, he claimed, would essentially wipe out high frequency trading. If done correctly and fairly, he said, the money could then be put back into the 'real' economy to benefit the average citizen.

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