The SEC’s Nanny State

The excuse here is the existence of so-called dark pools, or off-exchange stock trading in private venues like “banks or other firms.” It’s certainly true that the information exchange concerning companies whose stocks trade in the dark pools is less—often quite a bit less—than that available for exchange-traded stocks.

What the SEC wants to do, though, is push the dark pool trading onto the SEC-preferred stock market exchanges. In applying this pressure—it’s hard, even for this administration, simply to mandate the move—the SEC is proposing a rule that would, in a “pilot program,” force the dark pool to offer a better price for any stock (that the SEC chooses to have) included in the pilot program than is available on the exchange. Because participants in the dark pool mustn’t be allowed to exercise their own judgment outside of government oversight; participants in the dark pool mustn’t be allowed to arrive at their own agreements on suitable exchanges of value. They’re just not as smart as government bureaucrats. Or the participants in the government-preferred stock exchanges.

In March, 37% of all trading occurred away from stock exchanges, up from 33% two years ago, according to Tabb Group.

There’s a reason for this, and it has to do with excessive government regulation of those preferred exchanges. Oh, and the fees not paid in the dark pool on those completed trades. Here is a list of the fees charged by the NYSE, many of which are imposed by the government. On a per-share basis, they don’t look like much, but over the volume of trading that goes on, the fees add up to a handsome sum. The exchanges and the government want “their” money.

The real problem, though, is that the pressure against the dark pool is largely illegitimate.

Don’t understand the trade? Don’t have enough information? Don’t do the trade. Don’t know enough to know whether you have enough information to assess the risk? Don’t do the trade. It’s not that complicated.

Caveat emptor. Personal responsibility. Apparently the SEC thinks Americans are just too dumb to live under those precepts. Instead, they want caveat imperium [sic: most of you get my point. For the scholars who see the grammatically correct meaning, I suggest that’s on my point, also). Government responsibility.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *