Bucket Shops: unethical brokerages

What Is a Bucket Shop?

A bucket shop is a brokerage firm that engages in unethical business practices. Historically, the term was used to refer to firms that allowed their customers to gamble on stock prices, often using dangerously high levels of leverage.

More recently, the term is associated with firms that practice bucketing, which involves profiting from a client’s trades without their knowledge.


  • A bucket shop is a brokerage firm that engages in unethical business practices.
  • Historically, they would facilitate gambling on stock prices, often encouraging their clients to use dangerous levels of leverage.
  • Today, bucket shops are associated with so-called bucketing transactions, which involves illegally profiting from clients’ trades.


Understanding Bucket Shops

Bucket shops are brokerage firms that have clear and unmitigated conflicts of interest with their customers. Traditionally, they functioned as gambling houses in which customers were encouraged to take on substantial leverage in order to speculate on future stock prices. When customers occasionally profited on their trades, the gains would be advertised by the bucket shop to recruit new customers. In most instances, however, the customers would face large or even total losses. As with all gambling activities, the bucket shops benefited from their customer’s losses.

Bucket shops became common in the late 1800s, when the spread of new communications technologies, such as the telegraph, made it possible to speculate on stock prices in a timely manner. Bucket shops emerged to let clients gamble on stock prices in the same way that they might otherwise bet on racehorses,

One possible explanation for the origins of the name “bucket shop” has to do with another technique used by these firms to profit off their clients. After executing their trades throughout the day, bucket shops would sometimes throw the trade tickets into a bucket. After mixing the tickets together, the firm would then allocate winning and losing trades to specific clients based on their assessment of which clients would likely generate the most profit for the firm. This practice is of course prohibited by today’s legal and regulatory standards.

Today, the term is used more precisely to refer to brokerage firms that unethically profit from their clients’ transactions. Specifically, it refers to firms that engage in bucketing, which is the practice of misleading clients about the actual price at which a requested transaction was executed and using this deception to profit from their trades.


Real World Example of a Bucket Shop

To illustrate bucketing, consider a case where a client asks to purchase 1,000 shares of stock at a price of $20 per share. An unscrupulous broker might tell the client that the shares were purchased for $20, when in fact they were purchased for $19.

The difference of $1 per share would be pocketed by the broker as profit, without disclosing this fact to the client. Effectively, the broker would have stolen $1,000 worth of profit from the client. This type of transaction is known as bucketing, and firms which engage in it are described as bucket shops.

What Is Quad 4?

When inflation and GDP growth are slowing, the U.S. economy is in Quad 4, according to Hedgeye Risk Management

There is a term flying around Wall Street that should scare anyone with money in the market.

“Quad 4.” While it is used to describe the state of the economy, it also has implications for investing.

The term—originated by Darius Dale, co-head of macro strategy at investment-research firm Hedgeye Risk Management in Stamford, Conn.—comes from an investing framework that looks at the trend of two vital economic metrics: GDP growth and inflation. The former measures how fast the overall economy is growing. The latter tells us the rate at which the prices of goods and services are moving.

Keith McCullough, Hedgeye’s founder, says he and his team aren’t focused on whether GDP growth and inflation are good or bad, per se. Rather, they look at whether those metrics are heating up or cooling down.

At any point, inflation can be rising or falling. The same is true of economic growth. When the two get combined, you get a four-quadrant matrix that can be used to analyze where the economy is in the business cycle. That, in turn, can offer insights into which assets may perform best at that time.

When falling inflation coincides with slowing economic growth, the U.S. economy is in Quad 4. Hedgeye sees that commencing in the second quarter of the year. The consumer-price index measure of inflation has slowed over the past three months, according to Mr. McCullough. And the team sees weakness ahead in the U.S. economy, based partly on the component parts of a recent GDP report.

Avoid the 4

This chart grades the state of the economy through two metrics: GDP growth and inflation. Quad 4 is when both growth and inflation are slowing.

“Quad four is the lowest point of the economic cycle,” says Mr. McCullough. When both economic metrics are slowing, then the economy is headed for its cyclical bottom. The last two troughs were seen in 2008 and 2001.

When the economy is in Quad 4, stocks of technology companies and other growth-oriented businesses tend to perform poorly, Mr. McCullough says. U.S. Treasury bonds, gold bullion and utility stocks tend to be better bets.

“Our entire macro research business is based around the idea that you don’t get run over by Quad 4,” says Mr. McCullough.

Steve Eisman | Wall Street Debate | Opposition (4/8)

The Motion: This House Regrets Blaming Wall Street For The Global Financial Crisis.

Steve Eisman continues the case for the opposition, as the fourth speaker of eight in the debate.

Motion Defeated.


[Music] you know to Steve Eisman to continue the case the opposition it’s been my experience that most people even extremely educated people don’t fully understand what the financial why the financial crisis happened so rather than throw Thunderbolts let me spend most of my time trying to explain what happened because I think in the explanation the answer to the question will be fairly clear the financial crisis is due really to four major interlocking factors too much leverage a large asset class known as subprime mortgages that blew up systemically important banks owning the asset class and derivatives tying balance sheets all over the world let me start with the leverage between 1997 and 2007 leveraging the large banks in both Europe and the United States tripled that’s only the stated leverage if you add on top of it the shadow banking system and all the off balance sheets stuff that was really on balance sheet the amount of leverage went up four to five times it’s a lot of leverage now there are a lot of reasons for why this happened I could probably spend the next two hours discussing why let me discuss just one aspect of it that most people don’t have never really read about and that is psychological there is an entire generation of Wall Street executives my age and up who had a very strange experience in the 1990s in the early aughts they made more money every single year now the reason why they made more money every single year was that their firms made more money every single year but their firms made more money every single year because the leverage of their firms was going up every single year and really what was happening was they mistook leverage for genius and the problem that will emerge was that if you had gone to any of the executives of these firms and I did and said to them listen the entire paradigm of your career is wrong the response would have been listen kid I made fifty million dollars last year what did you make it’s very hard to tell someone who thinks he’s God that he’s wrong subprime mortgages you know people today not even remember really what a subprime mortgage was all about it was a mortgage that had a two or three year teaser rate and then was Reese price up for it for the next 27 or 28 years and most mortgages originated between 2002 and August of 2007 had a teaser rate of 3% and a go to rate of 9% 3 % 9% the industry and Wall Street under wrote the loans to the teaser rate which is a fancy term that means that the underwriters knew that the consumer could only afford to pay the 3% for the two to three years he or she could not afford to pay the 9% now why would anyone write a loan a 30-year loan where the customer can only afford to pay the teaser rate for the first two to three years and here’s the second great lesson of the financial crisis incentives Trump ethics almost every time the reason why this happened was that the consumer would take out a loan and would pay three to four points upfront for the privilege of getting the loan and because he or she could not afford to go to rates after two to three years the consumer had to refinance and would pay three to four points for the privilege of doing so which meant that the consumer could not afford the loan and would have to refinance and would never be able to pay off his or her principal from a societal perspective this was a disaster but from an economic perspective for the people who were writing the loans the subprime mortgage companies and for the Wall Street securitization departments that were buying them packaging him and securitizing him and selling him all over planet Earth it was a boondoggle because it meant they got to make they got to redo the loans and re-securitizing every two to three to four years and make their bonuses over and over again as the underwriting deteriorated and the credits began to get worse as was became very obvious in 2006 no one neither the underwriters or Wall Street said there’s something wrong here our underwriting is bad let’s do less securitize less and tighten our standards and the reason for that is no one has ever begun a sentence in the English language where they say I think this year I’ll make less money because it would have meant they would make less money and they didn’t want to make less money they wanted to make more money so they let the underwriting standards deteriorate with full knowledge that they were deteriorating and that’s the story of subprime third systemically important firms owned the asset class this is a bit of an irony the model of Wall Street is to buy it and sell it not buy it and hold it and here Wall Street bought it sold some of it and kept some of it something they never ever did why well over the years between 2002 and 2007 it did become more difficult to find investors to buy all of the product because so much was being generated now if we lived in a rational ethical world and we don’t but if we did then what would have happened is Wall Street and the underwriters would have tightened standards and underwritten less because there was if there was not enough end-users but instead they convinced their firms to hold the paper and invest in it with the rationale of how bad can it be it’s rated triple-a and now derivatives this is one of the more important parts of the story if I own debt and GE and I want to mitigate my risk I can buy a credit default swap from goldman sachs pay a certain fee for that and if GE goes bankrupt goldman sachs pays me so I have now mitigated my risk by owning a credit default swap credit default swaps reduce risk for individual transactions but the problem is that the only works in this example when GE goes bankrupt if Goldman Sachs is not is not not bankrupt and essentially what has happened is my balance sheet has been tied to Goldman Sachs is balance sheet multiply that transaction by trillions and you can see balance sheets all over the world were tied together and that’s the crisis Wall Street created the leverage it securitized and sold subprime mortgages all over the world and it created the derivatives that tied balance sheets together who should be blamed is there anyone else well there are two alternatives that people like to propogate first we should blame the regulators and there there is some blame from the early 1990s the regulatory apparatus of the United States adopted a position that was different from the position that had adopted before which is we were gonna let the large banks manage their own risks because we trust them essentially in the 1990s of the 2000s the US and European financial systems had the trappings of regulation but in reality they were completely unregulated institutions you know there are many good books about the financial crisis but there’s one that I think has the best title that captures the essence of the crisis which is a book by Judge Richard Posner the title of which is a failure of capitalism and that’s what happened in the financial crisis it shouldn’t be a surprise unregulated banking systems fail all the time they go boom and bust the difference this time was the fact that the sheer size of the global banking system and its interconnectedness because of derivatives created a bust that had planet earth burned and the last thesis and is sometimes propagated it’s not Wall Street’s fault it’s not the regulator’s fault its Fannie Mae’s fault Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac you know I have a little history with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac I began analyzing him in 1994 I think I was probably on the next 55 conference calls quarterly conference calls I analyzed them extensively I didn’t like them I thought they took too much risk I thought they manipulated the the political system but I like to blame people for what they actually did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did not cause the financial crisis this is a Shibboleth that is propagated by ideologues who were unwilling to admit that the financial system crashed because of the people who ran it Fannie Mae did buy some subprime mortgages it did cause a partially caused the demise of Fannie Mae but trust me on one thing if Fannie Mae and Freddie back had bought zero subprime mortgages the exact same thing would have happened because there were people lined up all over planet earth to buy them I thank you for your time and there’s a pleasure you

Is Meritocracy a Sham? | Amanpour and Company

Yale law professor Daniel Markovits says the system that values hard work and promotes the American dream is in itself a sham. He is taking aim at the very structure that made him a success in his latest book, “The Meritocracy Trap.” He joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

The average ivy lead student receives a $100,000 subsidy (through tax advantages).