Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

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Friday, September 10, 2010

The SEC approved new rules submitted by the national securities exchanges and FINRA to expand a recently-adopted circuit breaker program to include all stocks in the Russell 1000 Index and certain exchange-traded funds. The SEC also approved new exchange and FINRA rules that clarify the process for breaking erroneous trades.

The circuit breaker pilot program was approved in June in response to the market disruption of May 6 and currently applies to stocks listed in the S&P 500 Index. Trading in a security included in the program is paused for a five-minute period if the security experiences a 10 percent price change over the preceding five minutes. The pause gives the markets an opportunity to attract new trading interest in an affected stock, establish a reasonable market price, and resume trading in a fair and orderly fashion. The circuit breaker program is in effect on a pilot basis through Dec. 10, 2010.

A list of the securities included in the Russell 1000 Index, which was rebalanced on June 25, is available on the Russell website. The list of exchange-traded products included in the pilot is available on the SEC's website. The SEC anticipates that the exchanges and FINRA will begin implementing the expanded circuit breaker program early next week.

The markets will continue to use the pilot period to make appropriate adjustments to the parameters or operation of the circuit breakers as warranted based on their experience.

The erroneous trade rules were developed in response to the market disruption of May 6. The rules will make it clearer when — and at what prices — trades will be broken by the exchanges and FINRA. As with the circuit breaker program, these rules will be in effect on a pilot basis through Dec. 10, 2010.

For stocks that are subject to the circuit breaker program, trades will be broken at specified levels depending on the stock price:

  • For stocks priced $25 or less, trades will be broken if the trades are at least 10 percent away from the circuit breaker trigger price.
  • For stocks priced more than $25 to $50, trades will be broken if they are 5 percent away from the circuit breaker trigger price.
  • For stocks priced more than $50, the trades will be broken if they are 3 percent away from the circuit breaker trigger price.

Where circuit breakers are not applicable, the exchanges and FINRA will break trades at specified levels for events involving multiple stocks depending on how many stocks are involved:

  • For events involving between five and 20 stocks, trades will be broken that are at least 10 percent away from the "reference price," typically the last sale before pricing was disrupted.
  • For events involving more than 20 stocks, trades will be broken that are at least 30 percent away from the reference price

On May 6, the markets only broke trades that were more than 60 percent away from the reference price in a process that was not transparent to market participants. By establishing clear and transparent standards for breaking erroneous trades, the new rules should help provide certainty in advance as to which trades will be broken, and allow market participants to better manage their risks.

At Chairman Schapiro's request, the SEC staff is also:

  • Considering whether market makers should be subject to more meaningful obligations to promote fair and orderly markets.
  • Working with the exchanges to prohibit the use by market makers of "stub" quotes that are not intended to indicate actual trading interest.
  • Studying the impact of multiple trading protocols at the exchanges, including the use of trading pauses and self-help rules.

The SEC staff also intends to work with the markets and CFTC staff to consider recalibrating market-wide circuit breakers currently on the books — none of which was triggered on May 6. These circuit breakers apply across all equity trading venues and the futures markets.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/securities/2010/09/the-secapproved-new-rules-submitted-by-the-national-securities-exchanges-and-finra-to-expand-a-recently-adopted-circuit-break.html

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