August 24, 2018 / 6:57 PM / in 2 months

Hedge funds seek review of market data fees, 'pickles' and all

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The two main hedge fund trade groups have joined a growing chorus of stock market participants asking U.S. regulators to reign in “unreasonable” data fees charged by some exchanges, which they said restrict trading and harm competition.

The Managed Funds Association and the Alternative Investment Management Association, in a petition dated Aug. 22, asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct a full review of market data costs and to require exchanges to be more transparent about the fees they charge.

They said hedge fund managers trading on behalf of pension plans, charitable organizations and other institutional investors have experienced a continual increase in market data fees as exchanges alter licensing terms, create new fee categories, and recategorize and unbundle fees.

“Our members have likened the practice to ordering a hamburger which used to cost $20, but now costs $7 for the bun, $15 for the beef patty, $3 per fixing and $1 per condiment, for an overall total cost of $33 (with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and mustard),” the petition said.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has said the commission would hold an industry roundtable on the issue at some point in the near future, but no date has been announced.

Data revenue has been growing for exchange operators, including New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE) (ICE.N) and Nasdaq Inc (NDAQ.O).

ICE Chief Executive Jeff Sprecher has disputed the idea that exchange data is a growth area.

“You can still read people that write articles that somehow equity exchange data is going up or that somehow there is pricing power in that area and not robust competition. The reality is that that’s been in long-term decline,” Sprecher said on an Aug. 2 earnings call with analysts.

Calls for a review of rules around data fees and the exchanges’ ability to raise them without first getting SEC approval or industry comment have increased in recent years.

In December, a group of 24 market participants asked the SEC to review exchange data fees. The group included Vanguard Group; the brokerage arms of Citigroup Inc (C.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and UBS Group (UBSG.S); market makers Citadel Securities and Virtu Financial (VIRT.O), and retail brokers Charles Schwab Corp (SCHW.N), TD Ameritrade (AMTD.O), and Fidelity,

Trade Group Healthy Markets also petitioned the SEC in January “to reduce conflicts of interest, market complexity, and costs related to the provision of equity market data.”

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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