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State Regulators Ask Congress to Probe High-Speed Traders

Congress should bring greater transparency to equity markets by investigating the roles of high-frequency traders and broker-run trading venues known as dark pools, a group of state securities regulators said today.

The North American Securities Administrators Association’s latest advocacy agenda lists oversight of “opaque market activities” among its top priorities for the new Congress. The leaders of NASAA, whose members enforce state securities laws, say high-frequency trading “appears to have potentially dangerous implications for ordinary ‘mom and pop’ investors.”

NASAA president Heath Abshure, the Arkansas securities commissioner, said a congressional oversight investigation should examine whether the technological advantages of high-frequency traders allow them to benefit at the expense of other investors.

“The dark pools, the hedge funds and high-frequency trading all undermine public confidence in our markets,” Abshure said in an interview after the association announced its agenda at a news conference in Washington. “We need to fix that so that can’t happen.”

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Elisse B. Walter said during a speech on Feb. 19 that the agency is still examining a body of “mixed evidence” as it tries to determine whether high-frequency trading has been “a stimulative” or a “deterrent to the market.”

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