It was really only a matter of time.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the SEC is going to look into some of Wall Street’s biggest dark pools — opaque, private exchanges that investors use to trade more covertly.
Basically, the Feds want to know if the exchanges are treating every investor and every trade equally — not giving preference to high speed traders.
And yes, you can trace this back to the hullabaloo surrounding Michael Lewis’ new book, ‘Flash Boys.’
On Thursday, SEC head Mary Jo White announced that her agency would be looking into a bunch of different parts of the modern day trading. But at that point she wasn’t terribly specific.
Now, thanks to the WSJ’s story, we know that regulators will, at the very least, be looking into Barclays’ dark pool, LX. It’s the second largest pool after Credit Suisse’s pool, Crossfinder. FINRA just started tracking the volume of trades going into these pools on a weekly basis to get a better idea of how much of U.S. trading is flowing into these exchanges. Turns out, it’s about 40% of all trading.
Neither Barclays nor any other major dark pool operator included in this probe has been accused of any wrongdoing, but you can go ahead and call this a small victory for Goldman Sachs. The bank has been open about its willingness to shut down its own (smaller and less successful) dark pool, Sigma X, for the sake of transparency and safety on a larger scale.
Over the last few months, Goldman has voiced concern about this issue not only for its clients — the investors that trade in these pools — but also because of the technical issues that have plagued exchanges for the last few years. Last August this got personal when a glitch in Goldman’s own software sent erroneous quotes into the market and cost the bank $US100 million. And it doesn’t lose $US100 million.
Next week, the The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold a hearing on all of this called ‘Conflicts of Interest, Investor Loss of Confidence, and High Speed Trading in U.S. Stock Markets.’
That should pretty much give you an idea of how it’s going to sound to HFT firms and dark pool operators — not great.