First HFT Casualty As Finra Fines Trillium $1 Million For Quote Stuffing And General Market Manipulation (Again)

In a landmark development for a return to market integrity, regulators are finally getting serious on this whole "HFT thing" after over a year of disclosures of their illegal and manipulative practices by Zero Hedge. Today, Finra announced it is fining Trillium Brokerage Services, LLC, $1 million for using an illicit high frequency trading strategy. So just what is this illicit high frequency trading strategy, that incidentally is used by the bulk of low latency market quote stuffers, er, participants? "Trillium, through nine proprietary traders, entered numerous layered,
non-bona fide market moving orders to generate selling or buying
interest in specific stocks. By entering the non-bona fide orders, often
in substantial size relative to a stock's overall legitimate pending
order volume, Trillium traders created a false appearance of buy- or
sell-side pressure
.... This trading strategy induced other market participants to enter orders
to execute against limit orders previously entered by the Trillium
traders. Once their orders were filled, the Trillium traders would then
immediately cancel orders that had only been designed to create the
false appearance of market activity....
Trillium's traders bought and sold NASDAQ securities in this manner in
over 46,000 instances
, resulting in total profits of approximately
$575,000, of which the firm retained over $173,000 and subsequently was
required to disgorge." But. But. But. They just provide liquidity damn it! Plus, just like gold, you can't eat HFT. So Finra is telling us now that HFT has market abusive potential? Egads! Does this mean that that the Goldman announcement from last summer's Aleynikov affair when Goldman lawyer Facciponti said that “The bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways”, that he was not merely kidding? Luckily, Goldman will no longer have a HFT division as it is spinning off all of its prop trading. Correct Messers van Praag and Canaday?

Finra Finds "Widespread Use Of High-Speed Algorithmic Trading" Was Likely Cause For Flash Crash

Well, glad that is resolved. Now on to fixing it, which alas would mean killing a few hundred billion in annual revenue streams for the parasitic "liquidity providers" (a role they promptly abdicate when the market tends to drop just a little more than they are comfortable with; otherwise yes, the liquidity in Citi, FNM and FRE, as well as AAPL and GOOG options is phenomenal) and which also tend to double as systemic catastrophe factors. Look for many more appearances of "cash cows" on assorted status quo-defensive media venues, as they mount their last defense to preserve a way of life that does nothing to encourage investing within America's increasing skeptical of the capital markets population. From Reuters: "Regulators probing the mysterious May 6 "flash crash" in the stock market are unlikely to find a single cause, though the widespread use of high-speed algorithmic trading was in general likely behind it, the head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said on Monday. "We won't stop until we finish the analysis. But I think the answer is there is unlikely to be a single cause," Finra CEO Rick Ketchum told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference here. "It is much more likely to be a proliferation of algorithmic trading that was all subject to the same triggers and didn't have the same controls."

Did Goldman And Tourre Break FINRA Regulations By Not Reporting "Fab Fabrice's" Wells Notice Receipt?

Yesterday we praised two NYT reporters for having uncovered the mess of the Goldman CDO scandal first, and we concluded, erroneously now it seems, that the SEC merely piggybacked on their disclosure to file charges against Goldman. However, as Reuters' Matt Goldstein reports, Goldman had received a Wells Notice from the SEC as far back as "six months ago", which predates the Morgenson and Story December 24 story. And as the SEC case would likely have taken at least one year to build up, we are confident that the SEC began their investigation into Goldman and Paulson well prior, likely in 2008 if not earlier. For those unfamiliar, a Wells is basically an advance warning that the recipient will be a target of an SEC  investigation. We do not anticipate that anyone aside from Tourre (who, being just 27 at the time of the alleged transactions, in no imaginable way acted alone) and Goldman's legal counsel was aware of this development, although with allegations that Goldman was dumping various security holdings in advance of the announcement one can never be certain. One key line of questioning has emerged as a result of this disclosure: why was there no official notice anywhere in the public record of this Wells Notice receipt? The precedent is murky when it comes to corporations responsibility to report Wells Notice receipts: certainly, Goldman had no mention of this even in its March 1 10-KWhat is however without question, is that Fabrice Tourre, who as we reported yesterday, is a registered broker dealer, has a responsibilty to modify his/her U-4 within 30 days of the Wells Notice receipt, yet as of yesterday there was still "no disclosure of any event about this broker." Assuming Goldman received the Wells 31 days ago or more, it begs the question did the firm, by allowing Tourre not to report the Wells Notice, break Finra regulations, and just why it believes it has the facility to do this?

Got A Hot Tip On Twitter? FINRA Kindly Asks That You Retain That Message

The wild west days of social networking as a platform for stock tips and under the radar information exchange may be coming to an end. Or at least FINRA is finally realizing that there is more to stock manipulation than meets the eye, and in a radical change in policy (which up to now had been non-existent on the matter), FINRA will start policing and pouring through tweets, after announcing that "securities firms must keep copies of all business-related communications on social networks, whether those communications are official or from associated persons." Yet indicating just how woefully behind the times the SEC's much-feebler cousin is, FINRA has admitted that "the technology to grab those messages might not exist." The reason why FINRA should be concerned, as Securities Industry News highlights is that "Every Wall Street company – except possibly the smallest ones – have employees using social networks, creating potential liability problems for their employers, for whom they might not be speaking. However, many firms are also actively using these new platforms themselves, to reach out to customers, the general public, and potential new recruits."

FINRA Initiates Probe Into Goldman's "Trading Huddle" And Comparable Practices By Other Wall Street Firms

Could it be that the regulators are finally set on doing the one thing they are paid to do, i.e. regulatoring? Perhaps, especially when they are presented with all the data on a silver platter, as the WSJ did some time ago. The same WSJ reports that FINRA has now started a probe into the practice known as "trading huddles" which is merely another phrase for providing the best, most actionable data to one's preferential clients, and also a very politically correct and polite way of allegedly endorsing front-running.

Dear FINRA: Pick The "Natural" IOI Out


We know you are busy, we also know you are hell bent on intercepting IOI manipulation as per Mr. Jon Kroeper's recent media appearances. Which is why we kindly request that you get back to us at your earliest convenience with information on how many of the IOIs disclosed below are, in fact, "natural." We will make this a recurring topic on Zero Hedge until such time as you respond to our information request. You can contact us at

We appreciate your prompt attention to the matter

Zero Hedge staff.

FINRA Warns Against Fraudulent IOIs Once More... Not Even "Or Else" Follows

One of Zero Hedge's recurring concerns with market abuse has been the concept of manipulated natural Indications of Interest, or IOIs, a topic which readers can catch up on here and here. And yes, absent feedback from regulators this could have added to the ever increasing list of conspiracy theories broached by Zero Hedge. Yet ironically shortly after Zero Hedge first posted on this, FINRA came out with the following regulatory notice 09-28 from May 2009, in which the regulator "reminded firms of their obligation to provide accurate information in disseminating indications of interest."

JP Morgan Enjoying FINRA's Recently Amended Conflict-Enhancing Quiet Period In Upgrading MB Financial

There was a time when FINRA did some good things. It did mostly useless things, and was glaringly incompetent in even those, but on occasion it would do something proper, at least when moderating analyst conflicts of interest. Then the crash came, and all bets were off. Interestingly, in October 2008, a month after the bottom came off the market, and when the kitchen sink was being thrown at stocks in order to prevent further collapse, FINRA lost the last shred of interventionist integrity it had when it decided to abolish the so-called quiet period for research actions subsequent to a follow-on offering. Yesterday, JP Morgan was more than happy to take advantage of this last shred of regulatory decency collapsing by the wayside, as more and more synergies of the SEC-Wall Street merger become effectuated.