Sony Snags ‘Flash Boys’: High-Frequency Trading to Hit Big Screen

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Famed financial and Wall Street journalist Michael Lewis’s latest book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, has picked up a huge amount of controversy since its release March 31 and, according to Variety, is getting close to reaching a movie deal already. The publication reports that Sony is in the process of sealing the deal with Lewis for the film rights to Flash Boys. Sony also was responsible for the film version of Lewis’s 2003 book Moneyball, which starred and was produced by Brad Pitt. The movie version of another of Lewis’s famous books, The Blind Side, won an Oscar for star Sandra Bullock.

The success of previous film versions of Lewis’s journalism and all the buzz around Flash Boys were likely motivators for Sony to cut a deal so quickly. The book explores high-frequency trading done using computer algorithms that shave fractions of a second from trades. Big banks and stock exchanges are the ones with the access to such programs, and Lewis alleges that those entities use computers as a way to semi-legally engage in insider trading, skimming pennies off the trades of the everyday investors who support the economy.

Considering the popularity and acclaim of his previous books as well as those other film adaptations, Lewis knows how to tackle such dense material while also providing an engaging narrative and turning his sources into interesting characters.

Just one day after the publication of the book, the FBI launched an investigation into high-frequency trading firms on Wall Street and Wall Street supporters ripped Lewis apart for his claims. U.K. paper Telegraph reports that the FBI is looking into whether the fact that high-frequency trading firms can see information on trades milliseconds before the share orders make it to exchanges constitutes insider trading or fraud. Wall Street isn’t the only place feeling the fall-out from Lewis’s claims. Bloomberg reports that lawmakers in the EU are about to sign into law the toughest restrictions on high-frequency trading in the world.

Lewis is reveling in all the attention, engaging in an intense debate with Wall Street sympathizers on CNBC and watching the results of his work pay off to help make Wall Street into what he sees as a better, more fair place for all investors. That debate saw Lewis and one of the main characters in his book Brad Katsuyama arguing with BATS Global Markets president William O’Brien in a fight that nearly stopped trading on the New York Stock Exchange. “I believe the markets are rigged and I also think you’re part of the rigging,” Katsuyama said to O’Brien.

Lewis told Bloomberg Businessweek in an interview that the response to the book has gone far beyond his expectations. When asked if he’s been surprised by the media reaction to Flash Boys, Lewis said, “Absolutely. I’ve never had a book get this big a reaction so quickly. This is loud and personal.”

Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed The Wolf of Wall Street helped show that people are not too bored by the finance world to go see a movie about Wall Street, especially if it promises plenty of corruption. Given Lewis’s fame and the huge response from the media over Flash Boys, the movie will likely pay off big for Sony and help Lewis spread his message to more people.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS