Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The SEC charged dark pool operator eBX LLC with failing to protect the confidential trading information of its subscribers and failing to disclose to all subscribers that it allowed an outside firm to use their confidential trading information. eBX agreed to pay an $800,000 penalty to settle the charges.
According to the SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative proceeding, eBX operates the alternative trading system LeveL ATS, which it calls a “dark pool” trading program. eBX inaccurately informed its subscribers that their flow of orders to buy or sell securities would be kept confidential and not shared outside of LeveL. eBX instead allowed an outside technology firm to use information about LeveL subscribers’ unexecuted orders for its own business purposes. The outside firm’s separate order routing business therefore received an information advantage over other LeveL subscribers because it was able to use its knowledge of their orders to make routing decisions for its own customers’ orders and increase its execution rate. eBX had insufficient safeguards and procedures to protect subscribers’ confidential trading information.
According to the SEC’s order, eBX and the outside firm it hired to run LeveL signed a subscription agreement in February 2008, after which the outside firm’s separate order routing business began to use certain LeveL subscribers’ confidential trading data. In November 2008, eBX signed a new agreement with the outside firm that allowed its order routing business to remember and use all LeveL subscribers’ unexecuted order information. As a result of the agreements, the outside firm’s order routing business began to fill far more of its orders than other LeveL users did. Its order router also knew how other eBX subscribers’ orders in LeveL were priced and could use that information to determine whether to route orders to LeveL or another venue based on where it knew it might get a better price for its own customers’ orders.