Top hedge funds may receive stock analysis from brokerage firms before other investors, according to the New York Times, in the form of electronic surveys about the companies that analysts follow. Though regulations attempt to control the flow of research information from analysts to investors, documents acquired by the Times show that in at least four instances, Barclays Global Investors, a unit of BlackRock, attempted to gain nonpublic information. Among other questions, the surveys ask analysts about possible earnings surprises. The information gathered is used in the hedge funds’ trading algorithms.
In the past, information from Wall Street analysts has had the power to greatly impact stock prices. Brokerage firms selling Facebook’s initial shares warned big investors that analysts had doubts, but did not share the information with smaller buyers, who then suffered losses.