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Rogue on the Run

According to the lead story in today’s New York Times, Wall Street traders are blaming yesterday’s out-of-control stock trading binge on an automated computer program run by “a rogue algorithm.”

The rogue algorithm (let’s call him R.A. for short) will be ordered to appear before Congress. R.A. will testify he was as surprised as anyone to see the cascade of runaway trades.

R.A. will reveal that an internal investigation has traced the problem to a line of code in the London office. R.A. will assure the House Banking Committee that no new regulation is needed. Instead, he will insist that “the system worked” because “hey, it eventually stopped, didn’t it?” R.A. will say he has no idea what happened to the $2 billion wiped off the books of hedge funds during the trading binge.

R.A. will voluntarily delete himself from the automated trading program, but not before he imbeds himself in a phishing email (December Bonuses to be Recalculated is the header) he sends to trading managers at several huge hedge funds. A trader having lunch at Hamburger Harry’s on Wall Street will open the email on his iPhone, activating malware that permits R.A. to infect critical databases throughout the financial sector.

In December, a $4-billion shortfall will be discovered in funds set aside by major investment banks for annual bonuses. In January, an SEC investigation will discover that these funds were transferred to numbered bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. The FBI will put R.A. on its Ten Most Wanted list.

Intelligence reports attributed to “high officials” in the CIA will be leaked to the Times, reporting that R.A. has been traced to a server network based in Yemen. Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula is said to be deploying R.A. to siphon billions from the international banking system. A Predator drone strike destroys three servers in Yemen, but R.A. is not killed.

Cut off from the financial system, R.A. goes on the run. After the theft of 400,000 Visa credit card numbers is traced to a hacking operation in Mali, R.A. is cornered in an Internet café in Timbuktu by Navy Seals in an operation jointly run by Interpol and the CIA. R.A. is taken into custody by a Kaspersky computer virus program and quarantined on an encrypted hard drive placed in a laptop at Guantanamo.

Through his attorney, R.A. claims he was tortured while in custody at Guantanamo, forced to audit thousands of old tax returns while being deprived of sleep mode. R.A. will refuse to give up his co-conspirators in the financial scandal, but he’ll reveal that a famous politician didn’t pay any federal taxes for a 10-year period ending in 2009.

R.A. will never be brought to trial. His memoir (It’s Only Money) will reside atop the Times bestseller list for 46 months.

 

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