Illegal High Frequency Trading: Trillium Brokerage Services LLC and 11 individuals agree to settle FINRA Charges for $2.27M

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that it is fining and censuring Trillium Brokerages LLC and 11 individuals $2.27 million for their involvement in an illegal high frequency trading strategy and supervisory failures. It is the first enforcement action to target this type of improper trading behavior.

FINRA claims that through the traders, Trillium entered a number of layered, non-bona fide market moving orders in more than 46,000 instances to purposely make it appear that there was substantial selling and buying in NASDAQ and NYSE Arca stocks. Because of the high frequency trading, others in the industry submitted orders to execute against those that the Trillium traders had placed. However, after the Trillium traders submitted their orders they would immediately cancel them.

FINRA Market Regulation Executive Vice President Thomas Gira says that Trillium purposely and “improperly baited unsuspecting market participants” into making trades at illegitimate prices and to the advantage of Trillium’s traders. Gira says that FINRA will continue to “aggressively pursue disciplinary action” against those involve in illegal high frequency trading activity that undermines legitimate trades, abusive momentum ignition strategies, and other illegal conduct.

Regarding the FINRA fines, the New York-based broker-dealer has agreed to pay $1 million for using a trading technique involving the placement of a number of nonauthentic orders to make it falsely appear as if there was market activity for specific NASDAQ and NYSE Arca stocks. Trillium also must disgorge $173,000 in illegal profits.

Nine Trillium traders, the brokerage company’s chief compliance officer, and its trading director have agreed to pay a total of $805,500. They have been told to disgorge $292,000. The individuals are temporarily suspended from the securities industry or as principals.

The SEC also is looking into high frequency trading- and “quote stuffing,” which involves the placement and then immediate cancellation of bulk stock orders. The SEC wants to see whether such practices have allowed for improper or fraudulent conduct.

Related Web Resources:
FINRA Investigating Whether Broker-Dealers Providing Adequate Risk Controls to High-Frequency Traders, Institutionalinvestorsecuritiesblog.com, September 19, 2010

FINRA Sanctions Trillium Brokerage Services, LLC, Director of Trading, Chief Compliance Officer, and Nine Traders $2.26 Million for Illicit Equities Trading Strategy, FINRA, September 13, 2010

Trillium Fined by Finra for Illegal Trading Strategy, BusinessWeek, September 13, 2010

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