The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed charges against broker-dealer Virtu Americas LLC and its parent company, Virtu Financial Inc. (collectively, Virtu), for making materially false and misleading statements and omissions regarding information barriers to prevent the misuse of sensitive customer information.
As alleged in the SEC’s complaint, Virtu Americas and its affiliates operated two businesses that it purported to have walled off from each other: an order execution service for large institutional customers, whereby Virtu Americas executed customer orders, typically for a commission, and a proprietary trading business, through which Virtu Americas bought and sold securities for its own accounts and benefit. From approximately January 2018 through the beginning of April 2019, however, Virtu Americas allegedly failed to safeguard a database that contained all post-trade information generated from customer orders routed to, and executed by, Virtu Americas, including customer identifying information and other material nonpublic information. The SEC’s complaint alleges that this database was accessible to practically anyone at Virtu Americas and its affiliates, including their proprietary traders, through two sets of widely known and frequently shared generic usernames and passwords. Virtu Americas’ failure to safeguard this information created significant risk that its proprietary traders could misuse it or share it outside Virtu Americas. For example, a Virtu Americas proprietary trader allegedly could observe that Virtu Americas had executed the orders of a large institutional customer throughout the day, understand that the same customer may follow a similar trading pattern over the next days, and take advantage of such information by trading ahead of the customer’s subsequent orders.
‘Enforcement 40’ for 2020
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