16 Firms May Have Gotten Early (Illegal) Market Info

I know you're as shocked as I am.

Matt Taibbi's got a story about how Wall Street got the inside info, and the rest of the investors were left in the dust:

Readers may recall an ugly story that broke earlier this summer, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman rebuked the news/business information firm Thomson Reuters for selling access to key economic survey data two seconds early to high-frequency algorithmic traders. The story strongly suggested that some Thomson Reuters customers were using their two-second head start (an eternity in the modern world of computerized trading) to front-run the markets.

"The early release of market-moving survey data undermines fair play in the markets," Schneiderman said, back in the second week of July. Thomson Reuters suspended the practice of selling two-second head starts after Schneiderman insisted upon a change. Still, the firm defiantly refused to declare the change permanent and insisted that it had the right to "legally distribute non-governmental data" to "fee-paying subscribers."

It turns out that there's more to the story.

Back in June, journalist Simone Foxman at the global economic site Quartz reported that in addition to the two-second head start some Thomson Reuters customers were getting on the release of the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, other customers may have been getting their data even earlier, "nearly an hour in advance" in some cases.

Rolling Stone has since learned that a whistleblower complaint has been filed to the SEC identifying 16 of the world's biggest banks and hedge funds as the allegedly even-earlier recipients of this key economic data. The complaint alleges that this select group of customers received the data anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour ahead of the rest of the markets.

The identity of these 16 firms has not been made public yet, but sources describe the firms as major financial institutions, many of them well-known to the general public. Their inclusion in this case would significantly expand the scope of the scandal.

Contacted by Rolling Stone today, the SEC declined to comment on the status of the case.

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