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July 1, 2011

Scramble On as Access Ban Nears

By James Armstrong

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  • Scramble On as Access Ban Nears
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The Securities and Exchange Commission's new market access rule, set to go into effect on July 14, has brokers scrambling to comply with a set of regulations many feel are too confusing, and are also likely to be more expensive than originally anticipated.

New regulations associated with SEC Rule 15c3-5 will end the practice of brokers offering unfiltered or "naked" access to exchanges and alternative trading systems. Currently, brokers providing naked access will only monitor their clients' trades after the fact, or sometimes not at all.

The Financial Information Forum and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association have asked SEC to consider a phased-in implementation of the rule, delaying portions until Nov. 30. The New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, BATS and Direct Edge have asked that the entire rule be delayed until Nov. 30.

John Jacobs

When the SEC adopted the rule in November, the agency said the costs of compliance would be justified by new protections on market integrity. It said the industry would spend $22 million, an average of $16,000 per firm, on hardware and software to implement the rule. Ongoing compliance costs would be about $28.2 million, or $20,500 per broker dealer, annually, the SEC said.

John Jacobs, director of operations for Lime Brokerage, said for firms used to providing naked access, costs could be quite higher.

"Going from a post-trade environment to a pre-trade environment requires some pretty substantial investment," Jacobs said.

Lime is one of the brokerages that pushed for the new rule, so it had controls in place already, according to Jacobs. Firms offering naked access, tend to cater to high-frequency traders, and providing pre-trade controls while also maintaining low latency won't be cheap.

(Lime was recently acquired by its competitor Wedbush. In the past, Wedbush has been cited as one of the major firms offering naked access.)

Chris Lees

Chris Lees, a vice president at SunGard Global Trading, said adjustments required of brokers are probably some of the most costly technical changes brokers have had to make in the past few years.

In addition to making sure sponsored access clients are following procedures to prevent accidental or improper trades, under the new regulation brokers will also have to make sure clients comply with all exchange rules.

If a sponsored access client violates a rule of an exchange, the sponsoring broker would not only be liable for a fine from the exchange, it could also face enforcement action from the SEC, Lees said.