Healthy Markets Association Releases Report--US Equity Market Data: How Conflicts of Interest Overwhelm an Outdated Regulatory Model and Market Participants

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Investor group explores how an outdated regulatory framework has been exploited to increase complexity and costs for market participants, and offers 14 steps regulators can take to increase transparency and decrease costs for market data.

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“The outdated regulatory regime combines with unchecked conflicts of interest to simply overwhelm both regulators and market participants,” said Tyler Gellasch, Executive Director

Today, the Healthy Markets Association announced the release of its newest report, US Equity Market Data: How Conflicts of Interest Overwhelm an Outdated Regulatory Model and Market Participants.

The 80-page Report provides a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework, uses, and costs for both public and private US equity market data.

Amongst other findings, the Healthy Markets Report found that:

  • the exchanges that oversee the government-mandated public market data process are competing directly with that public data by selling their own data and connectivity offerings;
  • market participants rely on both the public and private market data to stay competitive and fulfill their regulatory obligations;
  • the non-competitive forces for market data and connectivity create significant upward pressures on prices, wherein both public and private data and connectivity prices have skyrocketed in recent years (e.g., a market participant who wanted the fastest connections with the most relevant trading information for BATS, NYSE, and Nasdaq has seen its costs rise from $72,150 per month on June 1, 2012 to $182,775 per month on June 1, 2017);
  • despite admitting that exchanges’ tape revenues and private data and connectivity products are material to their businesses, none of the major exchanges clearly discloses the sizes of these revenues; and
  • the vast majority of exchanges’ data and connectivity changes and fee hikes are implemented with effectively no regulatory scrutiny.

Based on these and other findings detailed in the Report, Healthy Markets offers 14 recommendations that regulators could take to improve the regulation and oversight of market data, including that they should:

  • require justification of data, connectivity, and fee changes for both public and private feeds, and thoroughly review all such changes for fairness, reasonableness and potential discriminatory impacts and undue burdens on market participants;
  • expressly acknowledge the governmental function of the SIP data feeds, and so require exchanges to return all revenues in excess of expenses incurred to operate and maintain the SIP data processing;
  • revise NMS Plan governance to include voting representation from investment advisers and broker-dealers;
  • eliminate “one vote per exchange registration” and replace with “one vote per exchange group”;
  • simplify pricing models within the SIP to eliminate the need to count end users, accounts or terminals, and eliminate the distinctions between professionals and non-professionals;
  • establish clear parameters for market data audits by exchanges or their representatives;
  • increase the transparency of public market data revenue collection and costs so that the public is aware of both on a quarterly basis;
  • improve the relative value of the SIP feeds by expanding the information to include order depth of book information;
  • minimize the time discrepancies between when market participants may receive information from the private data feeds and the SIP feeds;
  • clarify that rule filing requirements apply to all data derived from an exchange’s role in the national market system and marketed to anyone, including a data vendor, whether by the exchange or an affiliate and that standards for market date filings apply;
  • require all exchanges to provide detailed financial information regarding their public data fees, their revenues and expenses related to public and private data, as well as connectivity or other related products and services;
  • increase the transparency and disclosure of enhancements to SIP resiliency;
  • mandate monthly public reporting of latency across SIP plans and how that compares to the private market data products offered by the exchanges; and
  • if competing SIPs are permitted, establish protections to mitigate conflicts of interest and abuses that may be created by differences between the SIPs.

“The exchanges essentially set the rules for what’s covered by the public data feeds, and at what cost,” said Christopher Nagy, Director of Healthy Markets. “But the exchanges also sell data and connectivity services that directly compete with the public market data and they make millions from both the public and the private offerings.”

“The outdated regulatory regime combines with unchecked conflicts of interest to simply overwhelm both regulators and market participants,” said Tyler Gellasch, Executive Director of the Healthy Markets Association. “The current market data system is little more than a government-sanctioned, private tax on all market participants to the benefit of a handful of exchanges. Increasing transparency and reducing the conflicts of interest would would reduce costs and improve the markets.”

The Healthy Markets’ Market Data Report follows on the heels of a recent report from the U.S. Treasury Department that specifically called the market data markets “non-competitive” and urged numerous reforms.

Since Healthy Markets’ launch in September 2015, it has expanded to include both pension plans and investment advisers, that include Brandes Investment Partners, California Public Employees Retirement System, Janus Henderson, Macquarie Investment Management, OppenheimerFunds, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, PSP Investments, Quantitative Investment Management, Southeastern Asset Management, and The Boston Company Asset Management. Healthy Markets’ Working Group Members, who are invited by the Members to assist with supporting the mission of the organization, include Clearpool, IEX, Jefferies, Liquidnet, and MayStreet.

The US Equity Market Data Report was released to Healthy Markets’ Members and is available for purchase on Healthy Markets’ website.

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About Healthy Markets
Healthy Markets is an investor-focused not-for-profit coalition looking to educate market participants and promote data-driven reforms to market structure challenges. Our members, who range from a few billion to hundreds of billions of dollars in AUM, have come together behind one basic principle: Informed investors and policymakers are essential for healthy capital markets.

Healthy Markets can be found online at healthymarkets.org.
Twitter: @healthymkts

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Tyler Gellasch
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