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Tim Quast
Traders Magazine Online News

We're All HFTs Now

In this guest commentary, author Tim Quast looks back at the history of HFT and how the market has evolved to where many firms now fit the definition of high-frequency trader.

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March 1, 2000

Washington Watch - Levitt and Zarb May Leave Beltway

By Staff Reports

When Arthur Levitt, Jr., chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Frank G. Zarb, his counterpart at the National Association of Securities Dealers, talk - Wall Street listens. That's why both regulators, Brooklyn-born boys who are said to be close friends, may feel compelled to speak out publicly on a hot topic - speculation about their retirement plans.

Levitt, 69, the longest-serving chairman of the SEC, and Zarb, 65, himself a distinguished career federal official, may soon be stepping down, according to published reports. "I haven't heard a thing," said John Heine, a spokesman for the SEC. "Put us down for a no comment.'" NASD spokesman Scott Peterson said Zarb is not expected to retire soon.

With their legacies at stake, it would not come as a surprise, however, if both regulators stood down later this year. If the markets remain robust, they would both likely finish their current public careers on a high note.

Common Ties

Levitt and Zarb have more than neighborhood ties in common. Like his NASD counterpart, Levitt himself once ruled an exchange - the American Stock Exchange. Levitt's father, Arthur Levitt Sr., was for 24 years the comptroller of New York State and a big time player in New York Democratic politics. But the younger Levitt chose to work on Wall Street. He became a partner at the predecessor firm of Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney before heading up the American exchange. Still, Levitt remained a behind-the-scenes politico. In presidential and local politics, Levitt was a Democratic fund raiser. But, he is an equal opportunity contributor.' Levitt has made donations of over $1,000 to the campaigns of Robert Dole, Michael Dukakis and Charles Rangel, among others.

Levitt also co-chaired with Robert Rubin a major fund-raising dinner for Clinton in 1992.

Zarb also followed a path that included politics as well as Wall Street. He was chairman and chief executive of Smith Barney and was a senior partner at Lazard Freres & Co. Zarb served in various high-level assignments in the Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations, including assistant to the president for energy affairs.

The big question is whether these two Wall Street titans will soon retire. Don't bet on it. Alan Greenspan, arguably a more powerful personage, is serving a fourth term as head of the Federal Reserve. Greenspan was appointed back in the Bush administration. He is 73 years old and going strong.