Posted by: jhamon | July 26, 2009

Schumer to SEC: Rein in High Frequency Trading… Or I Will

Chuck Schumer

Chuck Schumer

I guess Joe Saluzzi Themis Trading got somebody’s ear.  About time we started to pay attention to this.  From Bloomberg:

July 25 (Bloomberg) — Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to ban so-called flash orders for stocks, saying they give high-speed traders an unfair advantage.

Schumer’s letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro yesterday raised the stakes in a debate over the practice offered by Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., Bats Global Markets and Direct Edge Holdings LLC, which handle more than two-thirds of the shares traded in the U.S. With flash orders, exchanges wait up to half a second before they publish bids and offers on competing platforms, giving their own customers an opportunity to gauge demand before other traders.

“This kind of unfair access seriously compromises the integrity of our markets and creates a two-tiered system, where a privileged group of insiders receives preferential treatment,” Schumer wrote in the letter.

Flash orders make up less than 4 percent of U.S. stock trading, according to Direct Edge and Bats. They have drawn criticism from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which is Wall Street’s main lobbying group, and Getco LLC, one of the biggest firms that uses high-frequency trading strategies to make markets in stocks and options. NYSE Euronext, owner of the world’s largest exchange by the value of companies it lists, told the SEC in May that the technique results in investors getting worse prices.

Schumer, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said he will introduce legislation to ban flash orders if the SEC doesn’t act on his request.

‘Deeper Conversation’

“This practice has been going on for three years and didn’t get much attention until the New York Stock Exchange” started complaining, said Sang Lee, managing partner at financial- services consultant Aite Group LLC in Boston. “Someone like Chuck Schumer getting involved in the process will create a deeper conversation about where the whole market is headed.”

The Schumer letter follows concerns expressed by investors and traders that computer-driven strategies executing hundreds of trades a minute make stock prices more volatile and boost costs. NYSE Euronext, operator of the New York Stock Exchange, estimates that about 46 percent of daily volume is executed through high-frequency strategies.

For the past decade, U.S. equity markets have sought to draw more business from high-frequency traders by offering rebates on transaction fees. Exchanges rent space in their data centers to brokerages so they can cut the distance information must travel and reduce transaction times to eke out an edge over the competition.

‘Not Good’

“You have all this activity going on that in one way or another is preferencing one part of the investing group over another,” said Michael Panzner, author of “The New Laws of the Stock Market Jungle” and a Wall Street trader for a quarter century. “That’s not good.”

More than 75 percent of money managers use computer-driven strategies because they reduce costs, according to a survey this month conducted by Greenwich Associates, a consulting firm in Stamford, Connecticut. For those transactions, they rely on some of Wall Street’s largest brokerages, which account for two- fifths of high-frequency trading, NYSE estimates.

 

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