Virtu Financial Europe, Euronext Paris get €5M fines in France for market rules violation

The Enforcement Committee of France’s financial markets regulator AMF has imposed hefty fines on high frequency trading firm Virtu Financial Europe, formerly known as Madison Tyler Europe, and Euronext Paris.

On December 4, 2015, the Committee fined Virtu Financial Europe €5 million ($5.43 million) for market manipulation and ignoring Euronext market rules. Euronext Paris also got fined EUR 5 million – for failing to meet its obligation to operate with neutrality and impartiality, in accordance with market integrity.

The sanctions refer to events from 2009. Back then Madison Tyler Europe was proprietary trading on Euronext and four alternative trading platforms. The company’s strategy consisted of identifying the best bid or offer price for a security on a platform – usually Euronext – and then placing four passive orders at a slightly different price on four other platforms; as soon as one of the orders was executed, giving rise to a gain equal to the difference in price, it would then cancel the remaining three orders. These operations were conducted within a few milliseconds and the algorithm implemented by Madison Tyler Europe constantly placed and cancelled orders in the various order books in accordance with the best bid or offer prices.

After analysing the operation of the algorithm used and the way in which the strategy was implemented, as well as its effects on the market in the 27 CAC 40 securities falling within the scope of the investigation, the Enforcement Committee found that:

  • Madison Tyler Europe’s activity was characterised by an extremely high volume of messages (placing, amending and cancelling orders) relative to the number of trades actually undertaken by it and by other participants; for example, on Euronext Paris, it accounted for 62.7% of all messages and 2% of trades;
  • Madison Tyler Europe’s operations were extremely rapid and the life span of its orders was extremely short relative to comparable practices by other operators active in the market at the time; for instance, on Euronext Paris, 66% of Madison Tyler Europe’s orders lasted less than one second and 25% lasted less than 10 milliseconds;
  • The very large volumes of orders cancelled by Madison Tyler Europe before they could be executed, particularly at the best bid or offer prices, distorted the representation of order books for market participants within the meaning of the sixth paragraph of Article 631-2 of the AMF General Regulation, in particular because of the time lag before other participants were notified of those orders, a significant proportion of which no longer existed;
  • Madison Tyler Europe’s trading practices had enabled it to secure a dominant position on the Euronext Paris, BATS, CHI-X and Turquoise platforms for the 27 securities in question, giving rise to unfair trading conditions for other participants within the meaning of point (a) of Article 631-1 of the AMF General Regulation.

amfAs a result, the Enforcement Committee ruled that Madison Tyler Europe’s trading practices constituted market manipulation as stated in Article 631-1 of the AMF General Regulation.

Also, the Enforcement Committee found that Madison Tyler Europe’s trading practices constituted a breach of Article 8105/1 of the Euronext Market Rules, which prohibit market members from “engaging in practices which may cause degradation of the service or give rise to a disorderly market”, including “submitting […] excessive electronic messages or requests to a Euronext Trading Platform”.

Regarding Euronext Paris, the Enforcement Committee noted that Madison Tyler Europe was granted exemption from the penalties applicable for exceeding the ratio of the number of orders placed to the number of trades executed in a given security on a given day, at that time set by Euronext at 100 to 1.

The Enforcement Committee ruled that, in granting this exemption to Madison Tyler Europe Euronext had not operated “with neutrality and impartiality, in accordance with market integrity”, and had thus violated the provisions of Article 512-3 of the AMF General Regulation.

To view the official announcement from AMF on the sanctions, click here.

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