CFTC Working Group Tries to Define High Frequency Trading

The Technology Advisory Committee of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission met on June 20 to discuss, among other matters, the proper definition for high frequency trading.

They were there to hear from four working groups. The first of these – the one that had been laboring on that definition – had the driest sounding purpose, but it ended up proving a good morning’s excitement.

Lions have Prides, Cheetahs don’t

But first, there were opening statements to deliver. Commissioner Scott O’Malia, the chairman of the TAC and the driving force behind the CFTC’s determination to do something about these threatening speeds, had little to say except to congratulate committee and working group members on their hard work. He also mentioned that Chief Economic Andrei Kirilenko is leaving soon. Kirilenko is going to be teaching at MIT starting next January.

Gary Gensler, the chairman of the CFTC, said that the CFTC has to adapt to the reality that trading is moving from human decisions to those of machines, and he said that the CFTC is at work on a concept release “on potential risk controls and system safeguards for electronic trading platforms.”

Another Commissioner, Bart Chilton, then spoke about “cheetahs,” his nickname for high-speed traders. He believes cheetahs ought to be registered and on the CFTC’s radar screen. Later in the proceedings, he would say that the executives to whom these traders report, the “head of the prides” of the cheetahs, ought to be responsible too.

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