NYSE Told Major Outage in 2015 May Have Broken Securities Rules

  • Exchange’s owner ICE says it got a Wells notice from SEC
  • Software glitch caused a more than three hour shutdown

Traders stand on a nearly empty trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange after trading was halted due to a 'technical glitch' on July 8, 2015 in New York City.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Securities and Exchange Commission investigators believe the New York Stock Exchange violated the law during a 3 1/2-hour outage on July 8, 2015, which froze one of the world’s biggest financial markets.

SEC enforcement officials sent the NYSE a Wells notice, the market’s owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc. said in its annual report, indicating those staffers will recommend SEC commissioners approve an enforcement action against the company.

The NYSE was shut that day from 11:32 a.m. to just after 3 p.m. New York time because of a botched technology upgrade. While conducting a software revision, something went wrong and customers started having trouble communicating with NYSE’s computers after 7 a.m., according to an autopsy of the event released by the exchange in 2015. The halt was finally implemented after a series of notices earlier in the day that appeared routine. At 11:04 a.m., for instance, NYSE reported a “technical issue,” without elaborating.

“We dispute the appropriateness of the potential charges that the SEC wants to bring and we have a lot of defenses,” Intercontinental Exchange Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Sprecher said during a conference call with analysts on Tuesday. NYSE issued timely and accurate communication about what was going on and attempted to alert the market to the technical issues as they were being identified, he said.

“It was a technology outage,” he added. “It was very unfortunate, it was embarrassing and a black eye but we don’t believe it actually violated any law.”

Judy Burns, a spokeswoman for the SEC, declined to comment.

Shares of ICE, as Intercontinental Exchange is known, rose 2.1 percent to $59.76 at 10:15 a.m. New York time. The company’s fourth-quarter earnings, released Tuesday, topped analysts’ estimates.

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