Articles Posted in High-Frequency Traders

The Chicago high-frequency trading firm HTG Capital Partners is suing rival traders, claiming that “John Doe defendants” engaged in spoofing to manipulate the market. The illegal practice was outlawed in 2010 under the Dodd-Frank Act. Spoofing involves attempting to deceive market participants into thinking large orders for futures contracts are being made to get others to make trades.

The practice may involve a trader making large orders for selling or buying and then canceling the orders right away and doing the opposite. However, the fake bids and offers make it appear as if prices are moving. This lets trading algorithms take advantage of the slit-second changes that occur. Those who are spoofed end up selling for less or buying for more than they wanted.

HTG is seeking $100,000 in damages and wants CME Group, the derivatives exchange where the alleged spoofing occurred, to identify the defendants. High-frequency trading provides the cloak of anonymity. CME, which owns the New York Mercantile exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is the largest futures market in the world.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is charging BATS Global Markets Inc. $14 million to resolve claims that two of the exchanges that the company purchased last year did not disclose important information to investors about the way the markets work. The settlement resolves the regulator’s probe into the way Direct Edge Holdings LLC gave certain high-speed traders the upper hand over others by withholding details about certain orders. Direct Edge and BATS merged together in 2014.

Order types are the directions investors use to trade on exchanges. High-frequency traders will often use complex versions of order types to compete in today’s fast markets. In 2009, Direct Edge offered up a number of new order types after talking with two high-frequency trading firms. However, what it purportedly did not do was properly disclose to the pubic the way the order types worked.

In the SEC order, the agency notes that one trading firm, whose name was not disclosed, told Direct Edge that if it introduced a certain order type, the firm would up the number of orders by over four million more.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that is looking to identify and stop trading incidents linked to algorithmic abuses. The self-regulatory agency is currently conducting about 170 investigations into this matter.

FINRA wants to find out if any brokerage firms either engaged in algorithmic abuses to trade or did not properly supervises advisers who committed such abuses. The SRO is worried that there are algorithms that are specifically intended set off illegal, manipulative behaviors on the market.

The use of algorithms to influence the markets have garnered lots of attention lately, specially with the release of author Michael Lewis’s book, “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.” He contends that high-frequency traders have the greater advantage because their extremely fast computers can manipulate stock prices to their benefit.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that it is fining and censuring Trillium Brokerages LLC and 11 individuals $2.27 million for their involvement in an illegal high frequency trading strategy and supervisory failures. It is the first enforcement action to target this type of improper trading behavior.

FINRA claims that through the traders, Trillium entered a number of layered, non-bona fide market moving orders in more than 46,000 instances to purposely make it appear that there was substantial selling and buying in NASDAQ and NYSE Arca stocks. Because of the high frequency trading, others in the industry submitted orders to execute against those that the Trillium traders had placed. However, after the Trillium traders submitted their orders they would immediately cancel them.

FINRA Market Regulation Executive Vice President Thomas Gira says that Trillium purposely and “improperly baited unsuspecting market participants” into making trades at illegitimate prices and to the advantage of Trillium’s traders. Gira says that FINRA will continue to “aggressively pursue disciplinary action” against those involve in illegal high frequency trading activity that undermines legitimate trades, abusive momentum ignition strategies, and other illegal conduct.

Regarding the FINRA fines, the New York-based broker-dealer has agreed to pay $1 million for using a trading technique involving the placement of a number of nonauthentic orders to make it falsely appear as if there was market activity for specific NASDAQ and NYSE Arca stocks. Trillium also must disgorge $173,000 in illegal profits.

Nine Trillium traders, the brokerage company’s chief compliance officer, and its trading director have agreed to pay a total of $805,500. They have been told to disgorge $292,000. The individuals are temporarily suspended from the securities industry or as principals.

The SEC also is looking into high frequency trading- and “quote stuffing,” which involves the placement and then immediate cancellation of bulk stock orders. The SEC wants to see whether such practices have allowed for improper or fraudulent conduct.

Related Web Resources:
FINRA Investigating Whether Broker-Dealers Providing Adequate Risk Controls to High-Frequency Traders,, September 19, 2010

FINRA Sanctions Trillium Brokerage Services, LLC, Director of Trading, Chief Compliance Officer, and Nine Traders $2.26 Million for Illicit Equities Trading Strategy, FINRA, September 13, 2010

Trillium Fined by Finra for Illegal Trading Strategy, BusinessWeek, September 13, 2010

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says the SRO is investigating whether broker-dealers failed to put adequate risk-management controls in place for high-frequency traders with access to an exchange or alternative trading system. The probe comes following the flash crash last May that involved the stock markets dropping almost 1,000 points in a matter of minutes before rebounding just as quickly. While lawmakers said that high-frequency trading was to blame, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission disagree.

FINRA says that Chief Executive Officer Richard Ketchum’s concern is whether brokers had full comprehension of how the traders were using algorithms and whether the latter understood the possible consequences during times of serious volatility. Ketchum vowed that if serious cases of brokers failing to “even try to exercise their obligations to run checks on the firms” prior to giving them access are uncovered, then enforcement actions will be taken.

Meantime, the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a pending rule proposal on unfiltered or naked access arrangements that would allow high-frequency traders to completely bypass risk management controls set up by broker-dealers.

High-Frequency Trading
High-frequency trading depends on computer algorithms (rather than human action) to execute transactions at super fast speed. High-frequency traders are usually institutional investors, such as pension funds or mutual funds. Through broker-dealers, these traders are able to gain direct electronic access to an exchange or ATS. According to recent data, high-frequency trading now makes up over 70% of market volume.

Related Web Resources:
High Frequency Trading and the Roiling Markets, Newsweek, June 1, 2010

High-frequency traders in the cross hairs after stock market’s wild day, LA TImes, May 6, 2010


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