AFM, kom er maar inA lot of words were used to describe the manipulation in the option market on TOM. This market structure issue is a piece-of-cake for insiders. However, normal people can find it hard to grasp. Luckily, we have more colour. The manipulation continued on Monday morning. It was easy to detect.

In short, the kid manipulated the option quote on Euronext. And he traded against this skewed quote on TOM.  Market makers have committed themselves to have prices at least as good as on Euronext.

Bloomberg screenshots

This morning it happened in the AEX Dec 2020 600 call. You can notice the trades with the red arrow. The guy bought €8,75 and sold €9,00 – for eight contracts. That’s a profit of €200 before costs. He did three of those scalps. Earning €600, and let’s assume €120 costs. Making a net profit of €480.

That’s about the same hourly fee a lawyer will charge you. Good luck with that.

TOM Market

Here’s the TOM market in the Dec’20 600 call. The AEX on TOM is called XNL – because of trademark issues. The trades are “opt-out” trades, dependent on manipulated quotes on Euronext.

TOM MTF trades

Euronext market

So let’s have a look at the Euronext market in the same option. Nothing traded at all. With the red circles I marked the bids and offers the kid has entered in the system. Maybe in an automated fashion, as the manipulated bids and offers remained in Euronext book for one second. That’s an eternity in HFT world, but for manual trading pretty fast.

Euronext manipulated

 

It’s visible he gave a €9.00 bid for 9 contracts. And he traded with a market maker on TOM, who relied on the Euronext order book, in the same second. He pulled his bid. Then he traded the other way around in a bit more than one minute.

This happened this morning. The time in the Bloomberg screenshots is of course from another time zone.

Compliance

The market is manipulated on Euronext. But TOM’s reputation is at stake here. Market professionals understand what’s going on. Most other folks just remember there is “something wrong with TOM”.

TOM isn’t free to comment on the situation. The case is in the hands of the watchdog AFM, which means you aren’t allowed to talk about it. Compliance departments everywhere curb people talking to the press.

So, who dunnit?

With this amount of money involved and naive style of trading, it’s hard to imagine a normal person is the evil mastermind here. Given it’s summertime and the schools are out, it may be a smart kid somewhere. Still, kids don’t see this window of opportunity for fraud. You need some knowledge of the option market and market structure.

The idea to get away with something as obvious as this, is hard to imagine. It almost looks like somebody wants to be noticed.

Jack
Jack