SEC’s Clayton Eyes Trader Access Fees Pilot in ‘Coming Months’ (Corrected)

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By Andrew Ramonas

The SEC could introduce a pilot program to reduce fees traders pay for stock exchange access “in the coming months,” Chairman Jay Clayton said July 12.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has found “broad consensus” to pursue a test of access fee changes, Clayton said in his first major policy speech since becoming chairman in May. An SEC advisory panel last year voted overwhelmingly to recommend the study, despite pushback from Nasdaq Inc. and Intercontinental Exchange Inc.’s New York Stock Exchange.

The pilot would shake up the maker-taker fee model, in which market participants pay to take liquidity or receive access fee rebates for providing it. Maker-taker critics claim brokers can direct orders to certain exchanges to maximize rebates, rather than securing the best prices or executions for clients.

“Regarding equity market structure, an enormous amount of thought—at the commission, in Congress, and in the private sector—has been devoted to this topic,” Clayton said at an Economic Club of New York luncheon. “While there are certainly challenging issues that merit further consideration, I believe it is time to shift our focus to action.”

Maker-Taker

Fees under the maker-taker model generally are 30 cents per 100 shares traded, the most the SEC permits. The commission’s Equity Market Structure Advisory Committee recommended a pilot program that places heavily traded stocks into groups with fee caps that range from 2 to 30 cents per 100 shares traded. The panel suggested using companies with a market capitalization greater than $3 billion for the study.

Then-acting Chairman Michael Piwowar said in March he directed staff to create an access fee pilot the commission could propose.

Clayton didn’t elaborate on the proposal staff is putting together. A spokesman for the chairman declined to comment.

NYSE, Nasdaq Concerns

Nasdaq and NYSE have fought the EMSAC over their concern the committee’s recommendation would move trading into dark pools.

A Nasdaq spokesman referred Bloomberg BNA to the exchange’s blueprint to reform capital markets when asked to comment on Clayton’s remarks. The document calls for the implementation of “an intelligent rebate/fee structure that promotes liquidity and avoids market distortions.”

A NYSE spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chester Spatt, an EMSAC member, told Bloomberg BNA the current access fee structure is “needlessly complex” and hurts market quality.

“A pilot is a sensible way to proceed,” said Spatt, a finance professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and former SEC chief economist.

(Third paragraph corrected to more accurately describe maker-taker fee model.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Ramonas in Washington at aramonas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phyllis Diamond at pdiamond@bna.com

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