CFTC stirs outrage over algo trading source code proposals

CFTC stirs outrage over algo trading source code proposals

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has approved proposals that would give it easier access to algorithmic traders' source code.

A year ago the Commission unanimously approved a host of new rules designed to minimise the risks posed by automated trading and to give it the tools to deal with problems when they arise.

The plan included giving CFTC staffers the ability to see regulated firms' source code - something that they can only currently do with a subpoena.

The Commission is now voting on a new proposal that will requires just a majority vote of its three members to gain access to source code.

Says CFTC chairman Timothy Massad: "This is a significant departure from our standard practice, which allows staff to seek access to information that registrants are required to preserve without a subpoena or specific Commission authorisation."

Industry bodies are up in arms. The FIA, along with the FIA Principal Traders Group (FIA PTG), expressed grave concerns about the move, saying it would permit an unacceptable level of access to proprietary source code used to operate automated trading systems.

“The CFTC’s regulation of automated trading must focus on safeguarding markets through appropriate risk controls," says Walt Lukken, president and CEO of FIA. "We share the CFTC's commitment to strengthening risk controls, and our members have actively supported improvements that market participants, intermediaries and exchanges can and should implement to prevent market disruption. We cannot support the proposed source code provision, however."

“We’re very disappointed that the Commission ignored the view expressed by a wide range of market participants as well as technology companies outside this industry that access to source code should require a subpoena,” Lukken added. “Source code deserves the same protections under the law as any other form of intellectual property. The proposed special call process simply does not meet that standard.”

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