This July the BitMEX team absconded to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a team offsite. Milwaukee in the summer is beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed morning runs on the banks of lakes and rivers in clean, crisp, and dry air. I’m currently training for Winter squash season in Hong Kong. Anything that makes keeping to my cardio schedule easier is appreciated.
One day at lunch Ben and his wife wanted to eat oysters. They left the table and returned shortly afterwards. Ben recounted how they attempted to purchase oysters, but due to a silly regulation, they had to be seated, served, and supervised while eating them. There was a long line for table service so they were unable to consume anything.
The nanny state is alive and well. Two adults cannot be trusted to put a shell to their mouth and slurp a morsel of food. Instead, they must be supervised by another human, and pay tips and tax for that privilege.
The infantilization of the global population shows no signs of abating. The government injects itself into every aspect of our lives, and in most cases we are worse off for it. Bitcoin in some respects is a reaction against this trend.
Bitcoin and the digital currency industry empowers adults to take control of their financial well being. This is liberating, but it comes with costs. Adults are expected to make informed decisions by ingesting all available information. Adults make their own good and bad choices. There is no CEO of Bitcoin to tell adults how to behave, where to trade, protect them if they lose their password, or police trading venues.
Some Bitcoin traders live by this ethos of personal responsibility. However, many of these same traders express concern that Bitcoin markets do not operate like other regulated asset classes. In a recent Medium article entitled “Meet ‘Spoofy’. How a Single entity dominates the price of Bitcoin.”, the author rants and raves about how a trader or group of traders are spoofing and distorting the market. The author does present interesting allegations about Tether; however, that rabbit hole is best addressed in another newsletter.
I wholeheartedly do not wish Bitcoin to trade like traditional assets. Traders should be free to, well trade. I will detail certain market practices, and why I believe they pose no threat to the integrity of the Bitcoin markets.
The job of a trader is to have better information than the market. That is the textbook definition of insider trading. Traders who do not use inside information will not make money.
Insider trading is most policed in the equity markets. The reason why there are discontinuous jumps in the price of stocks is that information is held back from the market. If all available information could be traded upon at any time, trading patterns would be smoother.
American regulators are the most aggressive prosecutors of insider traders. The irony is that US congressmen and women are allowed to insider trade on companies which they essentially regulate. That creates an interesting love triangle.
Companies lobby (aka bribe) lawmakers about regulations. The lawmakers know that certain decisions they make will positively or negatively impact the stock price once made public. These same lawmakers then trade on this information and earn above average returns.
Excessive regulation and legalese provide a defensive moat for large companies against small ones. The cycle perpetuates itself because only large and well heeled companies can afford the cost of continuous bribery. This bribery presents a much better return on investment than improving their underlying product.
Lawmakers receive cash on both sides of the equation. Their reelection campaigns are funded by big business, and they get to trade the stock ahead of important regulatory changes. A variant of this triangle is present in most heavily bureaucratic governments.
Bitcoin trading occurs across a set of unaffiliated exchanges and various jurisdictions. The notion of what could constitute inside information is difficult to discern. Given the lack of a generally accepted theory on the fundamental value of Bitcoin, a piece of market news has positive or negative implications depending on who you ask.
In the ICO and altcoin markets, knowledge about potential partnerships, software bugs, or completion of certain development milestones before the general public can provide immense profits. The traders who invest the time speaking with the developers and are active in the community, are the traders who make the most money.
What a thought, if you put more effort into your craft, you make more money.
Spoofing is illegal on most regulated exchanges. Spoofing is the act of posting a order you do not have the intention of honoring. Spoofing is bluffing.
I find it incredible that this is illegal in certain markets. If you wanted to buy $1 billion worth of Bitcoin right now, would you tell the market? No. A smart trader would bluff that they wished to sell $1 billion worth of Bitcoin, and then if the market believes him and trades lower, buy at a lower price.
If a trader has the collateral needed to place an order, he or she should be allowed to place that order. Whether or not he intends to get filled is irrelevant. The big problem, however, is if the exchange violates price -> time priority in order to let the spoofer get off the hook, if a legitimate trade occurs based on their price.
Rather than focus on the flashing of large orders on Bitcoin exchanges, the author of the above mentioned article should focus on whether price -> time order matching priority was violated.
Speaking for BitMEX, price -> time priority is sacrosanct. We have never, and will never violate this essential law of order matching.
Many point and click traders believe that the mythical market makers on most Bitcoin exchanges are allowed to violate price -> time priority. The human trader sees a price, they think about it, then place a manual order. The order they thought would be instantly filled is not. Now the market has moved away from them. They cry foul. They believe their order should have been filled, and somehow the market maker was able to get out of a valid trade.
At BitMEX order matching is done atomically. If your order submission creates a match, there is no way a market maker can pull their quote before being filled. I reiterate, price -> time priority always holds at BitMEX.
Point and click traders must recognise that the human eye to brain to motor function loop is extremely slow when compared to a trading robot. You are slow, but the exchange in most cases is not at fault.
If you cannot accept your inferiority as a human, either trade with a robot, or trade using a higher time frame.
The most successful Bitcoin exchanges have the most pristine reputations. There is no deposit insurance or global Bitcoin trading cop to run to. If you do not approve of the way an exchange operates or their business practices, you are free to leave the platform at any time.
In order to retain customers, exchange operators must cater to their users. Contrast that to traditional asset markets. Financial institutions fluff regulators rather than improve the experience of their paying customers.
Reputations take forever to build, and are tarnished instantly.
Regulatory agencies can be bought, and most are held captive to the industries they police. Most high level jobs at financial institutions are held by ex-regulators. There has to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to entice capable individuals to accept government jobs that pay less than the private sector.
Adults trading digital currency markets have extreme power to shape the collective trading experience. A tweet or reddit post from a KOL greatly impacts the perceived safety and integrity of an exchange. Adults should use this power to create a trading environment that is conducive to safety and wealth generation.
The above mentioned Medium article is a great example. The mainstream financial press picked up on this and amplified the reach of the author’s views. These views are not kind on many of the exchanges mentioned in the post. This surely will drive business to other outfits who, rightly or wrongly, are deemed to be honest.
The court of public opinion is the best motivator.
If you cannot devote at least 12 hours per day in chat rooms, on message boards, and constantly monitoring your positions, do not day trade digital currencies. Trading with a less than 1 week time horizon is dangerous if you cannot devote yourself to being on call 24/7.
This is a market for adults. Be an adult, educate yourself, and in the process obtain true freedom.