SEC bans naked access

Recall how 38% of all trades are naked access.

Now the SEC proposes an effective ban

(all applaud now)

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted for a proposal that would require brokerages that rent out their access to the markets to have rules in place to protect against potential mishaps from unlicensed traders.

In the practice known as "sponsored" access, brokerages that have been approved to trade on an exchange rent their access to traders, who are then able to shave milliseconds from the time it takes to access the markets.

In "naked sponsored" access, also called "unfiltered" access, the brokers do not screen orders en route to markets, making electronic trading even faster.

"We are concerned that order entry errors in this setting could suddenly and significantly make a broker dealer or other market participants financially vulnerable within mere minutes or seconds," said SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro.

The SEC said that the proposed rule would "effectively prohibit" brokerages from providing their clients with naked access to an exchange. The proposal is open for a 60-day comment period and would require another commission vote for adoption.

Here is the new SEC rule:

Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today voted unanimously to propose a new rule that would effectively prohibit broker-dealers from providing customers with "unfiltered" or "naked" access to an exchange or alternative trading system (ATS).

The SEC's proposed rule would require brokers with market access, including those who sponsor customers' access to an exchange, to put in place risk management controls and supervisory procedures. Among other things, the procedures would help prevent erroneous orders, ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, and enforce pre-set credit or capital thresholds.

"Unfiltered access is similar to giving your car keys to a friend who doesn't have a license and letting him drive unaccompanied," said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. "Today's proposal would require that if a broker-dealer is going to loan his keys, he must not only remain in the car, but he must also see to it that the person driving observes the rules before the car is ever put into drive."

Broker-dealers use a 'special pass' known as their market participant identifier (MPID) to electronically access an exchange or ATS and place an order for a customer. Broker-dealers are subject to the federal securities laws as well as the rules of the self-regulatory organizations that regulate their operation.

However, those laws and rules do not apply to a non-broker-dealer customer who a broker-dealer provides with their MPID in order to individually gain access to an exchange or ATS. Under this arrangement known as "direct market access" or "sponsored access," the customer can sometimes place an order that flows directly into the markets without first passing through the broker-dealer's systems and without being pre-screened by the broker-dealer in any manner. This type of direct market access arrangement is known as "unfiltered" access and "naked" access. A recent report estimated that naked access accounts for 38 percent of the daily volume for equities traded in the U.S. markets.

Through sponsored access, especially "unfiltered" or "naked" sponsored access arrangements, there is the potential that financial, regulatory and other risks associated with the placement of orders are not being appropriately managed. In particular, there is an increased likelihood that customers will enter erroneous orders as a result of computer malfunction or human error, fail to comply with various regulatory requirements, or breach a credit or capital limit.

The SEC's proposed rule would require broker-dealers to establish, document and maintain a system of risk management controls and supervisory procedures reasonably designed to manage the financial, regulatory and other risks related to its market access, including access on behalf of sponsored customers.

Broker-dealers would be required to:

  • Create financial risk management controls reasonably designed to prevent the entry of orders that exceed appropriate pre-set credit or capital thresholds, or that appear to be erroneous.
  • Create regulatory risk management controls reasonably designed to ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements applicable in connection with market access.
  • Have financial and regulatory risk management controls applied automatically on a pre-trade basis before orders route to an exchange or ATS.
  • Maintain risk management controls and supervisory procedures under the direct and exclusive control of the broker-dealer with market access.
  • Establish, document and maintain a system for regularly reviewing the effectiveness of its risk management controls and for promptly addressing any issues.

The SEC today also approved a new Nasdaq rule that requires broker-dealers offering sponsored access to Nasdaq to establish certain controls over the financial and regulatory risks of that activity. The proposed Commission rule would extend beyond the new Nasdaq rule in several respects. For example, the Commission's proposal would require the broker-dealer to automatically apply its controls on a pre-trade basis, and to retain exclusive control over those controls without delegation of this critical function to the customer or another third party. The Commission's proposal also would require broker-dealers to establish a supervisory system, including an annual CEO certification, to assure the ongoing effectiveness of its controls In addition, the Commission's proposed risk management controls would apply market-wide, whenever a broker-dealer directly accesses any exchange or ATS.

* * *

The SEC's proposed rule seeks public comment and data on a broad range of issues relating to market access, including the costs and benefits associated with the proposal. Public comments on today's proposal must be received by the Commission within 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

The full text of the proposed rule will be posted to the SEC Web site as soon as possible.

Zero Hedge, who has been following naked access as well as flash trading, has some more details and comments.

Subject Meta: 

Forum Categories: