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IM-2110-2. Trading Ahead of Customer Limit Order

This rule is no longer applicable. NASD IM-2110-2 has been superseded by FINRA Rule 5320. Please consult the appropriate FINRA Rule.

(a) General Application
To continue to ensure investor protection and enhance market quality, NASD's Board of Governors is issuing an interpretation to NASD Rules dealing with member firms' treatment of their customer limit orders in NMS stocks and OTC equity securities. This interpretation, which is applicable from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, will require members to handle their customer limit orders with all due care so that members do not "trade ahead" of those limit orders. Thus, members that handle customer limit orders, whether received from their own customers or from another member, are prohibited from trading at prices equal or superior to that of the limit order without executing the limit order. In the interests of investor protection, NASD is eliminating the so-called disclosure "safe harbor" previously established for members that fully disclosed to their customers the practice of trading ahead of a customer limit order by a market-making firm.1 For purposes of this interpretation, (1) "NMS stock" shall have the meaning set forth in SEC Rule 600(b)(47) of Regulation NMS and (2) "OTC equity security" shall have the meaning set forth in Rule 6610(d).
Rule 2110 states that:
A member, in the conduct of his business, shall observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.
Rule 2320, the Best Execution Rule, states that:
In any transaction for or with a customer, a member and persons associated with a member shall use reasonable diligence to ascertain the best inter-dealer market for the subject security and buy or sell in such a market so that the resultant price to the customer is as favorable as possible to the customer under prevailing market conditions.
Interpretation
The following interpretation of Rule 2110 has been approved by the Board:
A member firm that accepts and holds an unexecuted limit order from its customer (whether its own customer or a customer of another member) in an NMS stock or OTC equity security and that continues to trade the subject security for its own account at prices that would satisfy the customer's limit order, without executing that limit order, shall be deemed to have acted in a manner inconsistent with just and equitable principles of trade, in violation of Rule 2110, provided that a member firm may negotiate specific terms and conditions applicable to the acceptance of limit orders only with respect to limit orders that are: (a) for customer accounts that meet the definition of an "institutional account" as that term is defined in Rule 3110(c)(4); or (b) 10,000 shares or more, unless such orders are less than $100,000 in value. In the event that a member trades ahead of an unexecuted customer limit order at a price that is better than the unexecuted limit order, such member is required to execute the limit order at the price received by the member or better. Nothing in this interpretation, however, requires members to accept limit orders from any customer.
By rescinding the safe harbor position and adopting this interpretation, NASD wishes to emphasize that members may not trade ahead of their customer limit orders even if the member had in the past fully disclosed the practice to its customers prior to accepting limit orders. NASD believes that, pursuant to Rule 2110, members accepting and holding unexecuted customer limit orders owe certain duties to their customers and the customers of other member firms that may not be overcome or cured with disclosure of trading practices that include trading ahead of the customer's order. The terms and conditions under which institutional account or appropriately sized customer limit orders are accepted must be made clear to customers at the time the order is accepted by the firm so that trading ahead in the firm's market-making capacity does not occur.
The minimum amount of price improvement necessary for a member to execute an order on a proprietary basis when holding an unexecuted limit order in that same security, and not be required to execute the held limit order is as follows:
1) For customer limit orders priced greater than or equal to $1.00, the minimum amount of price improvement required is $0.01 for NMS stocks and the lesser of $0.01 or one-half (1/2) of the current inside spread for OTC equity securities;
2) For customer limit orders priced greater than or equal to $.01 and less than $1.00, the minimum amount of price improvement required is the lesser of $0.01 or one-half (1/2) of the current inside spread;
3) For customer limit orders priced less than $.01 but greater than or equal to $0.001, the minimum amount of price improvement required is the lesser of $0.001 or one-half (1/2) of the current inside spread;
4) For customer limit orders priced less than $.001 but greater than or equal to $0.0001, the minimum amount of price improvement required is the lesser of $0.0001 or one-half (1/2) of the current inside spread;
5) For customer limit orders priced less than $.0001 but greater than or equal to $0.00001, the minimum amount of price improvement required is the lesser of $0.00001 or one-half (1/2) of the current inside spread;
6) For customer limit orders priced less than $.00001, the minimum amount of price improvement required is the lesser of $0.000001 or one-half (1/2) of the current inside spread; and
7) For customer limit orders priced outside the best inside market, the minimum amount of price improvement required must either meet the requirements set forth above or the member must trade at a price at or inside the best inside market for the security.
For purposes of determining the minimum price improvement standards for customer limit orders in OTC equity securities priced below $1.00 where there is no published current inside spread, members may calculate a current inside spread by contacting and obtaining priced quotations from at least two unaffiliated dealers and using the highest bid and lowest offer obtained in calculating the current inside spread. Where there is only a one-sided quote in an OTC equity security priced below $1.00, members may calculate the current inside spread by contacting and obtaining priced quotations from at least two unaffiliated dealers and using the best price obtained on the other side of the quote. Members must document the name of each dealer contacted and the quotations received for purposes of determining the current inside spread.
In addition, if the minimum price improvement standards above would trigger the protection of a pending customer limit order, any better-priced customer limit order(s) must also be protected under this IM, even if those better-priced limit orders would not be directly triggered under the minimum price-improvement standards above.
NASD also wishes to emphasize that all members accepting customer limit orders owe those customers duties of "best execution" regardless of whether the orders are executed through the member or sent to another member for execution. As set out above, the Best Execution Rule requires members to use reasonable diligence to ascertain the best inter-dealer market for the security and buy or sell in such a market so that the price to the customer is as favorable as possible under prevailing market conditions. NASD emphasizes that order entry firms should continue to monitor routinely the handling of their customers' limit orders regarding the quality of the execution received.
(b) Exclusion for Limit Orders that are Marketable at Time of Receipt
NASD has previously recognized the functional equivalency of marketable limit orders and market orders. Accordingly, it has adopted the following interpretation. IM-2110-2 shall not apply to a customer limit order if the limit order is marketable at the time it is received by a member. These orders shall be treated as market orders for purposes of determining execution priority; however, these orders must continue to be executed at their limit price or better.
The exclusion for marketable customer limit orders from the general application of IM-2110-2 is limited solely to customer limit orders that are marketable when received by a member. If a customer limit order is not marketable when received by a member, the limit order must be accorded the full protections of IM-2110-2. In addition, if the limit order was marketable when received and then becomes non-marketable, once the limit order becomes non-marketable it must be accorded the full protections of IM-2110-2.
The following scenario illustrates the application of the exclusion. The market in XYZ stock is 25 bid–25 1/16 ask, the volume of trading in XYZ stock is extremely active, and Market Maker A ("MMA") has a queue of market orders to buy and sell. Assume the following order receipt scenario. Each sell market order in the queue is for 1,000 shares and there are no special conditions attached to the orders. MMA then receives a customer limit order to sell 1,000 shares at 25. The customer limit order is marketable at the time it is received by MMA. MMA hits another market maker's bid at 25 for 1,000 shares. Normally, IM-2110-2 would require that the customer limit order be executed before the market orders in the queue. However, because the marketable limit order and the market orders should be treated as functionally equivalent in determining execution priority, the marketable customer limit order shall not be given execution priority over the market orders that were already in the queue. When the limit order is executed, however, it must be executed at the limit price or better.
In addition, if in the scenario just described the limit order does not get executed and the inside market in XYZ becomes 24 7/16 bid, the member would have to protect the limit order as required by IM 2110-2 if the member trades at the limit order price or better.
(c) Exemption for the Facilitation on a Riskless Principal Basis of Other Customer Orders
A member shall be exempt from the obligation to execute a customer limit order in a manner consistent with this interpretation if such member engages in trading activity to facilitate the execution, on a riskless principal basis, of another order from its customer (whether its own customer or the customer of another member) (the "facilitated order"), provided that all of the following requirements are satisfied:
(1) The handling and execution of the facilitated order must satisfy the definition of a "riskless" principal transaction, as that term is defined in NASD Rules 4632(d)(3)(B), 4642(d)(3)(B) and 4652(d)(3)(B);
(2) A member that relies on this exemption to this interpretation must give the facilitated order the same per-share price at which the member accumulated or sold shares to satisfy the facilitated order, exclusive of any markup or markdown, commission equivalent or other fee;
(3) A member must submit, contemporaneously with the execution of the facilitated order, a report as defined in NASD Rules 4632(d)(3)(B)(ii), 4642(d)(3)(B)(ii) and 4652(d)(3)(B)(ii) to the Automated Confirmation Transaction Service;
(4) Members must have written policies and procedures to assure that riskless principal transactions relied upon for this exemption comply with NASD Rules 4632(d)(3)(B), 4642(d)(3)(B) and 4652(d)(3)(B). At a minimum these policies and procedures must require that the customer order was received prior to the offsetting transactions, and that the offsetting transactions are allocated to a riskless principal or customer account in a consistent manner and within 60 seconds of execution. Members must have supervisory systems in place that produce records that enable the member and NASD to accurately and readily reconstruct, in a time-sequenced manner, all orders on which a member relies in claiming this exemption.
(d) Intermarket Sweep Order Exemption
A member shall be exempt from the obligation to execute a customer limit order in a manner consistent with this interpretation with regard to trading for its own account that is the result of an intermarket sweep order routed in compliance with Rule 600(b)(30)(ii) of Regulation NMS ("ISO") where the customer limit order is received after the member routed the ISO. A member also shall be exempt with respect to trading for its own account that is the result of an ISO where the member executes the ISO to facilitate a customer limit order and that customer has consented to not receiving the better prices obtained by the ISO.

1 For purposes of the operation of certain transaction and quotation reporting systems and facilities during the period from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, members may generally limit the life of a customer limit order to the period of 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time. If a customer does not formally assent ("opt-in") to processing of the customer's limit order(s) during the extended hours period commencing after the normal close of the market, limit order protection will not apply to that customer's order(s).

Amended by SR-FINRA-2009-037 eff. June 29, 2009.
Amended by SR-FINRA-2008-064 eff. Feb. 11, 2009.
Amended by SR-FINRA-2007-023 eff. Nov. 16, 2007; amended by SR-FINRA-2007-038 eff. Dec. 21, 2007; amended by SR-NASD-2007-041 Nov. 11, 2008.
Amended by SR-FINRA-2007-039 eff. May 6, 2008.
Amended by SR-NASD-2007-039 eff. July 26, 2007.
Amended by SR-NASD-2005-146 eff. July 26, 2007.
Amended by SR-NASD-2006-134 eff. Dec. 8, 2006.
Amended by SR-NASD-2005-087 eff. Aug. 1, 2006.
Amended by SR-NASD-2006-069 eff. July 1, 2006.
Amended by SR-NASD-2006-035 eff. April 14, 2006.
Amended by SR-NASD-2004-089 eff. Jan. 2, 2006.
Amended by SR-NASD-2005-085 eff. July 1, 2005.
Amended by SR-NASD-2003-14 eff. January 31, 2003.
Amended by SR-NASD-2002-66 eff. Dec. 13, 2002.
Amended by SR-NASD-2001-27 eff. April 6, 2001.
Amended by SR-NASD-2001-09 eff. March 2, 2001.
Amended by SR-NASD-99-57 eff. Oct. 25, 1999.
Amended by SR-NASD-99-44 eff. Sept. 10, 1999.
Amended by SR-NASD-94-62 eff. June 21, 1995.
Adopted by SR-NASD-93-58 eff. July 7, 1994.

Selected Notices: 89-39, 90-37, 95-43, 95-67, 05-64, 07-19, 08-49, 09-14.

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