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

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

CBOE Pays $6 Million to Settle SEC Charges of Regulatory Failures

The SEC charged the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and an affiliate for various systemic breakdowns in their regulatory and compliance functions as a self-regulatory organization, including a failure to enforce or even fully comprehend rules to prevent abusive short selling.  CBOE agreed to pay a $6 million penalty and implement major remedial measures to settle the SEC's charges.

The financial penalty is the first assessed against an exchange for violations related to its regulatory oversight. Previous financial penalties against exchanges involved misconduct on the business side of their operations.

According to the SEC's order instituting settled administrative proceedings, CBOE demonstrated an overall inability to enforce Reg. SHO with an ineffective surveillance program that failed to detect wrongdoing despite numerous red flags that its members were engaged in abusive short selling. CBOE also fell short in its regulatory and compliance responsibilities in several other areas during a four-year period.  According to the SEC's order, CBOE moved its surveillance and monitoring of Reg. SHO compliance from one department to another in 2008, and the transfer of responsibilities adversely affected its Reg. SHO enforcement program. After that transfer, CBOE did not take action against any firm for violations of Reg. SHO as a result of its surveillance or complaints from third parties.

According to the SEC, CBOE failed to adequately enforce Reg. SHO because its staff lacked a fundamental understanding of the rule. CBOE investigators responsible for Reg. SHO surveillance never received any formal training and did not have a basic understanding of a failure to deliver.

The SEC's order also found that not only did CBOE fail to adequately detect violations and investigate and discipline one of its members, but it also took misguided and unprecedented steps to assist that same member firm when it became the subject of an SEC investigation in December 2009. CBOE failed to provide information to SEC staff when requested, and went so far as to assist the member firm by providing information for its Wells submission to the SEC. The CBOE actually edited the firm's draft submission, and some of the information and edits provided by CBOE were inaccurate and misleading. The SEC brought its enforcement action against the firm in April 2012, and an administrative law judge recently rendered an initial decision in that case.

According to the SEC's order, CBOE had a number of other regulatory and compliance failures at various times between 2008 and 2012. CBOE failed to adequately enforce its firm quote and priority rules for certain orders and trades on its exchange as well as rules requiring the registration of persons associated with its proprietary trading members. CBOE also provided unauthorized "customer accommodation" payments to some members and not others without applicable rules in place, resulting in unfair discrimination. And CBOE and affiliate C2 Options Exchange failed to file proposed rule changes with the SEC when certain trading functions on their exchanges were implemented.

CBOE and C2 agreed to settle the charges without admitting or denying the SEC's findings. CBOE agreed to pay $6 million, accept a censure and cease-and-desist order, and implement significant undertakings. C2 also agreed to a censure and cease-and-desist order and significant undertakings.

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