By John McCrank
(Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday took the first step in potentially changing how essential stock market data is governed following years of complaints by brokers that the exchanges that control the data are conflicted in their role.
The SEC voted to issue for public comment a staff proposal to create new rules governing public data feeds that it said would also improve transparency and address inefficiencies in the collection and dissemination of the data.
The proposal would update rules put in place in 2005 that put exchanges and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in charge of the governance and operation of three public data feeds showing current best prices and last trades for stocks.
Since the existing rules were put in place, exchanges have created faster, more sophisticated proprietary data feeds that compete against the public feeds. Many larger brokers say they need to pay for those private data feeds, which are often more expensive than the public feeds, in order to remain competitive, and that this has created a two-tiered market.
“Today’s proposed order is designed to address issues regarding the dissemination of market data that affect the efficiency and fairness of our markets,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton.
The SEC’s proposal, which is subject to a 45-day public comment period, directs the exchanges to create a new governance plan that would form a single public data feed, reduce the influence of large exchange groups in decision-making around the data, and give a bigger say to non-exchange participants.
If the regulator decides to issue an order after receiving public input on the proposal, the exchanges and FINRA would have to create a new governance plan, which would also be published for public comment before the SEC takes it into consideration.
Clayton, an independent, along with Republican Commissioners Elad Roisman and Hester Peirce, voted in favor of the measure, while Democratic Commissioners Robert Jackson and Allison Lee dissented.
“Rather than give investors a real say over the data that drives today’s markets, today’s release merely invites for-profit exchanges to draft their own rules on these questions,” Jackson said. “Because that approach has failed investors before, and there is no reason to expect it to succeed now, I respectfully dissent.”
(Reporting by John McCrank in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)