NEW YORK, Nov 17 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators on Wednesday will consider new rules that would increase the amount of information that alternative trading systems (ATSs), such as “dark pools,” have to disclose to investors about how their private stock trading venues work.
There are around 35 broker-run ATSs competing with 11 registered exchanges for stock trading business, and most of them are so-called “dark pools,” which do not display pre-trade information. Unlike exchanges, ATSs currently have no requirement to tell investors how they operate.
“Given the level of complexity in the markets, the thought is that with respect to the operations of those ATSs, there should be more detail about how orders are handled,” David Shillman, associate director of the Trading & Markets unit at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said on Tuesday.
ATS rules were written in the late 1990s when electronic trading networks were being developed to challenge the dominance of the New York Stock Exchange. The regulatory burden on the private trading venues was lighter than the burden on exchanges in order to allow the new venues to innovate.
But ATSs have evolved into complex trading venues that are often affiliated with so-called sell-side firms, such as investment banks and proprietary trading firms, Shillman said at a Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association conference in New York.
The SEC will revisit the rules and may require standardized disclosures about how ATSs operate to help market participants evaluate risks and make informed choices about different venues, which vary widely in pricing, order priority and customers.
SEC Commissioner Kara Stein in September called for increased transparency around dark pools, along with better oversight tools for the SEC, and clearer obligations for market participants around electronic trading.
Her comments came amid increased regulatory scrutiny of ATSs.
Recent enforcement actions involving the trading platforms include a $20.3 million SEC settlement with brokerage firm Investment Technology Group on charges it ran a secret trading desk that profited off of confidential customer information within its dark pool.
Regulators also fined UBS Group AG $14.4 million in January for violations in its dark pool, and in June 2014 New York’s attorney general brought a lawsuit against Barclays for alleged fraud within its dark pool.
Some ATSs have voluntarily made their rules public, starting in October 2013 with IEX Group, which applied in September to become a registered U.S. stock exchange. (Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)