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What is Cyber Systemic Risk?

“Cyber systemic risk” is Internet-driven risk that threatens to destroy the business viability of industry ecosystems.

While cybersecurity risk may be the familiar and recognizable type of cyber systemic risk, it is only recognizable like the tip of an iceberg is recognizable, because most cyber systemic risk lurks well out of view, deep beneath the surface in the ocean of virtual ones and zeros.

“Cyber systemic risk” generally is the Internet version of the financial crisis’ hard lesson of “systemic risk,” where the world learned that risks or disruptions to one or a few financial institutions could cascade to become risks or disruptions to the broader financial ecosystem. That’s because the inherent inter-linkages and inter-dependencies of financial institutions’ debt and liquidity exposed the then underappreciated fragility of the interwoven financial system.

The financial crisis exposed the need and the requirement for corporations to be more vigilant concerning enterprise risk management (ERM). Consequently the next crisis exposing enterprise risk is less likely to happen from a replay of known financial systemic risks, but from new unappreciated or ignored cyber systemic risks.

Cyber systemic risk is arguably more serious than financial systemic risk. That’s because the Internet inherently is: the most inter-linked, inter-dependent, intermediary system ever created; an insecure and un-private system; and more centralized and concentrated at the top than the financial ecosystem.

Bitcoin's Quixotic Search for Legality -- My Daily Caller Op-ed -- Part 10 Algorithmic Markets Series

If you are interested in understanding serious emerging problems with algorithmic markets, please don’t miss my Daily Caller op-ed “Bitcoin’s Quixotic Search for Legality” – here.

  • It is Part 10 of my Algorithmic Markets research series.

Algorithmic Markets Research Series

Part 1: Who's Looking Out for Investors? [6-14-01]

Google Price Index: Insider Trading & Market Failure?

Google announced it is working on an economy-wide Google Price Index, but has not decided whether to make it public, per Google Chief Economist, Hal Varian, who spoke at the National Association of Business Economists conference this week.

 

  • This development has under-appreciated implications for insider trading and also spotlights how Google's online dominance of market-relevant information suggests market failure and a new potential systemic vulnerability to the integrity of global capital markets.

 

I.  Insider Trading

In March, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: "One day we had a conversation where we figured out we could just try and predict the stock market... and then we decided it was illegal. So we stopped doing that."

Now any hedge fund (or market regulator not born yesterday) understands that if Google is actively working on a Google Price Index, Google has not stopped trying to use its uniquely comprehensive and timely, repository of sensitive market information to predict information highly useful to predicting the stock market.

 

Systemic Flash Crash Vulnerability: Financial Crisis Root Causes: Part IV

The SEC/CFTC report on the May 6th "Flash Crash" helps confirm that automated index trading technology was a contributing cause of the 2008 Financial Crisis and why recent financial reforms are not enough to address the ongoing destructive systemic vulnerability that automated index trading technology increasingly poses for financial markets going forward.

 

Will Google redefine insider information/trading?

Google's unprecedented mass-accumulation of material non-public information may force a re-thinking and broader definition of the concept of insider information/trading and related securities laws/regulations, in order to continue to ensure the integrity of public markets.

  • Public statements by Google's CEO Eric Schmidt last week unwittingly unveiled a new and potentially very serious material weakness in the oversight and integrity of public markets, that should trouble those responsible for policing insider trading and other public securities laws at the SEC, CFTC, FERC, Treasury and the DOJ.
  • From Jon Fortt's outstanding not-to-be-missed post in Fortune: "Top 5 moments from Eric Schmidt's talk in Abu Dhabi:"
    • Google CEO Eric Schmidt: "One day we had a conversation where we figured we could just try and predict the stock market..." "and then we decided it was illegal. So we stopped doing that."

Public market regulators responsible for protecting the integrity of public markets are likely to be concerned by this public admission by a publicly-traded Fortune 200 CEO, especially when the statements are put in a broader perspective by connecting the relevant dots.

FERC approves Google Energy -- Keep an eye on this one...

"U.S. energy regulators approved a request by Google Inc. to become an electricity marketer, allowing the Internet giant to buy and sell bulk power like a utility" per the WSJ.

My www.GoogleMonitor.com site will keep watch over Google on Google Energy's trading in energy derivatives because it is ripe for abuse, as I explained in my earlier post: "Google's Energy trading proposal sounds eerily like Enron's disastrous derivative scheme".

Per the WSJ: "A spokeswoman for the company has said Google has no plans to sell its energy management service or speculate in energy markets. But she acknowledged the company isn't completely sure how it will proceed."

The concern here is that Google publicly has given itself wide latitutde here to speculate in energy markets in the future... because of their statement above... and because the FERC approved in its order Feb 18th  "blanket authorization... to issue securities and assume obligations or liabilities as guarantor, indorser, surety, or otherwise in respect of any security of a another person..."

Systemic Uneconomics: Financial Crisis Root Causes: Part III

To discern the real “root” causes of the financial crisis of 2008, one must probe beneath the surface and examine the health of the “root system” of our capital markets “forest.” The roots of the capital markets forest are sound economics; the natural market function of automatically equilibrating supply and demand and risk and reward, that is commonly appreciated as Adam’s Smith’s “invisible hand.” We generally assume that the natural market strength of the capital market forest’s root system ensures that all the trees are not in danger of being blown over in the crisis of a storm.

 

In the fall of 2008, we all were shocked to learn that the root system of our capital markets, that we had always assumed was healthy and strong, was actually frighteningly weak and brittle requiring the slapdash reinforcement of multi-trillion dollar emergency scaffolding of whatever material was close at hand, a TARP, bailout lifelines, capital sandbags, etc. -- to buttress the main market “trees” from toppling over, trees that the Government judged to big to be allowed to fall.

 

Google's Energy trading proposal sounds eerily like Enron's disastrous derivative scheme

As the first expert witness to testify before Congress on what went wrong with Enron, the worst U.S. fraud/bankruptcy ever at that time, Google's announcement that it has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for "blanket authorization...  to make sales of electric energy, capacity and ancillary services," and for "certain exemptions" from reporting and accountability... is eerily reminiscent of Enron Broadband's disastrous efforts to bring swash-buckling, gee-whiz technology to the energy futures market over a decade ago. 

  • The hair standing up on the back of my neck tells me this latest scheme by Google to become an unregulated market maker in energy services could end very badly.

What's different between Enron and Google is that Enron was an energy company that entered into the tech and energy auction businesses, whereas Google is a tech and ad-auction business entering the energy business.

Deja Vu: What's eerily similar?

“Systemic Risk Laundering” -- Financial Crisis Root Causes -- Part II

How could American taxpayers get stuck with a multi-trillion dollar tab that they weren’t even aware that they were running up? How could that huge tab still be allowed to run up unchecked today? For the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the sad answer is one of the biggest root causes of last fall’s devastating financial crisis and one of the biggest continuing systemic risks to the financial system and the economic recovery.  

 

A decade ago, in what may prove to be the most expensive bipartisan legislative mistake in U.S. history, a bipartisan policy became law that effectively ensured that no Federal regulator had oversight or enforcement jurisdiction over derivative financial instruments. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) created “legal certainty for excluded derivative transactions.” That law allowed a shadow derivative overlay system to be built literally on top of the public financial system, with none of the inherent accountability of the underlying financial system.  In other words, a deliberate bipartisan U.S. government policy change a decade ago unwittingly created an unaccountable “black hole” market that sucked enormous value out of public markets, (Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG, Fannie, Freddie, securitized sub-prime mortgages, etc.) while laundering the risk to the U.S. taxpayer.

The Father of Indexing Calls My Indexing Thesis "Nuts!"

When Investment News asked John Bogle, Vanguard's founder and the father of indexing, about my "Indexing into the Ditch" thesis (that indexing is one of the root causes of the financial crisis) he said: it “is nuts! Last time I looked, index funds accounted for about 0.4% of all stock trading ... Just perhaps the other 99.6% might bear a teeny-weeny bit of the responsibility.

Let me first respond to Mr. Bogle's points in order.

The thesis "is nuts! "I must admit I smiled at the ad hominum implication that my thesis was "nuts" and not worth listening to; I remembered that Bernie Ebbers called me the "idiot Washington analyst" because my research was the first to charge that WorldCom's business simply did not add up.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths