(Recasts with comments from FBI)
March 31 (Reuters) - U.S. federal agents are investigating whether high-speed trading companies violate U.S. laws by using fast-moving market information not available to other traders, a FBI spokesman confirmed on Monday.
Launched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about a year ago, the investigation called the High-Speed Trading Initiative, is still in its primary stages, a senior FBI official and an agency spokesman told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. (link.reuters.com/fab28v)
The spokesman who spoke to the Journal said high-speed trading based on information about orders that other investors do not have access to and hence putting them at a disadvantage could violate insider-trading laws.
Separately, an FBI spokesman, who did not want to be identified by name, told Reuters the agency was probing high-frequency traders front-running others' trades by getting to exchanges first, among other areas.
The spokesman said a big trade, such as bank shorting a million shares of a company under investigation, could be considered a material event.
The FBI has deployed a large number of agents, looking at proprietary-trading outfits as well as fast-trading operations at brokers who buy and sell orders on behalf of clients, such as mutual funds and pension plans, the Journal said.
Regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that oversees broker dealers are working with the FBI on the probe, the Journal reported. (Reporting by Shubhankar Chakravorty in Bangalore and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr and Lisa Shumaker)