(Reuters) South Korea’s financial regulator has imposed a fine of 11.88 billion won ($9.66 million) on U.S.-based Citadel Securities, saying it disturbed the local stock market with high-frequency algorithm trading.
The Financial Services Commission (FSC) said in a statement released on Thursday the firm had distorted stock prices with artificial factors, such as orders on the condition of “immediate or cancel” and by filling gaps in bid prices.
The firm carried out such trading on an average of 1,422 stocks per day from Oct. 2017 to May 2018, totaling more than 500 billion won worth of trades, according to the statement.
The Commission said it was the first time it had imposed fines on such high-frequency trading on the South Korean stock market, which has a high proportion of retail investors and little competition among algorithmic traders.
It added the firm did not provide algorithm source codes in the consultation process.
The regulator declined to identify the brokerage in violation but Citadel Securities confirmed it had been awaiting a decision, although it had yet to hear directly from the Commission.
“Citadel Securities works diligently to follow all applicable laws, regulations, and rules in jurisdictions in which we trade,” it said in a statement. “We strongly believe our trading complied with both Korean laws and global norms. We disagree with the FSC’s decision relating to our trading activity more than five years ago and will be seeking to appeal the decision.”
Citadel Securities was surprised and concerned to see that the regulator’s findings include references to a number of hearings the firm itself was not invited to participate in and supposed expert evidence that was never shared with the company and that it never had an opportunity to respond to, a source familiar with the situation said.
Citadel High Frequency Trading
High frequency trading takes advantage of investors and of the market itself.
One of the biggest manipulations in the market conducted by high frequency trading is spoofing.
Spoofing is a disruptive algorithmic trading practice that involves placing bids to buy or offers to sell futures contracts and canceling the bids or offers prior to the deal’s execution.
In December, Northwest Biotherapeutics sued Citadel Securities for spoofing their company stock.
The company is accused Citadel Securities LLC, Susquehanna, Virtu, and other Wall Street firms of driving its stock price down through the use of various illicit trading activities.
But this isn’t Citadel Securities first rodeo.
The hedge fund is under intense scrutiny from retail investors who say the company has too much power, allowing it to take advantage of retail trades through its payment for order flow and other manipulative tactics.
In 2015, an account operated in China by the brokerage arm of US hedge fund Citadel was suspended.
It was the latest casualty of regulators’ hunt for market manipulators and short sellers at the time.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission said that the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges had suspended 24 accounts as part of a probe into high-frequency trading.
But Citadel has a long history of market manipulation.
This was only an earlier incident where Citadel and high frequency trading have been an issue in the past.
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