The Michael Lewis Controversy

Michael_Lewis_2009By Dealbook

When Michael Lewis rolled out his new book with an appearance on the CBS show “60 Minutes” and an excerpt in The New York Times magazine, the author was praised by literary critics and panned by high-frequency traders.

The speedy condemnation from people made rich by high-speed trading was expected, but Mr. Lewis, one of the most popular business journalists in the country, has also been panned by a number of financial journalists.

While praising the attention that Mr. Lewis has drawn to the problems of high-speed trading, reporters and columnists who cover Wall Street are calling the book old news and questioning Mr. Lewis’s errors, omissions and s implification of the issue.

Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote that Mr. Lewis “reserves blame for the wrong villains.”

Joe Nocera, an Op-Ed columnist for The Times, wrote that the narrative “starts to feel just a little too perfect.”

Mr. Lewis responded to the criticism today in an inte rview with Salon, saying that “this time I punched Wall Street in” a location that can’t be mentioned in the pages of The Times.

In The Times’s Sunday book review, James B. Stewart, a Times columnist and the author of “Den of Thieves,” punches back.

“There’s really no news in the book,” Mr. Stewart said in an appearance on CNBC. “The news is Michael Lewis discovered high-frequency trading, but Scott Patterson wrote all this, and more, in his 2012 book, ‘Dark Pools.'”

“It’s not a fair book,” Mr. Stewart said. “Goldman Sachs gets slammed, The Wall Street Journal gets slammed for not picking this up, the S.E.C. gets slammed. No one gets to tell their side of the story. One thing I’ve learned as a reporter is that every story gets better when you hear the other side of the story.”

Mr. Stewart’s review finds that:

“A purported contest between good and evil in which all the characters are good quickly becomes dull, especially when the setting is as technical as high-frequency trading. The traders themselves remain faceless adversaries of Katsuyama and his buddies. Lewis never penetrates their high-tech lairs, or even seems to have tried. Who are these people? What are they like? How do they do what they do? How much money do they make and what do they do with it? And are they really so bad? (For answers to these questions, there’s Scott Patterson’s far more comprehensive and persuasive 2012 book, “Dark Pools: The Rise of the Machine Traders and the Rigging of the U.S. Stock Market.”)”

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