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SEC Wants Audit Trail for Trading Orders

May 26, 2010

The Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed a new rule that would require self-regulatory organizations such as the stock exchanges and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to establish a consolidated audit trail system for tracking all the trading orders that are received and executed across the securities markets.

The audit trail system is intended to help the SEC keep pace with new technology and trading patterns in the markets, where mysterious forces such as “dark pools” currently seem to hold sway.

Weeks after the so-called “flash crash” caused the Dow to suddenly plunge about 700 points in a matter of minutes, the SEC still hasn’t been able to pinpoint the exact causes. An audit trail would theoretically provide a single database of data on orders and executions that would help regulators track suspicious market activity and reconstruct unusual events.

Whether or not such a system is really feasible given the vast complexity of the markets today is anybody’s guess. But the SEC is hoping the audit trail would help provide some clues and some deterrence as well. After all, that’s what audits are supposed to do.

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