Opalesque Industry Update: FINRA's new rule prohibiting front-running of customer block transactions was approved by the SEC and takes effect on June 1, 2013. The new rule prohibits a FINRA member firm (generally a registered broker-dealer) from placing trades when it has information about an imminent block transaction of more than 10,000 shares.|
New Rule Replaces and Expands Previous Rule
New FINRA Rule 5270 ("Rule 5270") addresses the front-running of block transactions and will replace NASD IM-2110-3 ("NASD 2110"). Rule 5270 significantly expands the prohibitions applicable to block transactions; it applies to a broader range of securities than NASD 2110, includes new supplementary material regarding permitted transactions, and states that front-running of a customer order may violate other FINRA rules or the federal securities laws.
Front-Running Prohibitions Expanded to Include Block Trading in All Securities Including Fixed Income Securities and Related Financial Instruments
Rule 5270 will apply to all securities and "related financial instruments" that are the subject of an imminent block transaction. As a result, the prohibitions will apply to purchasing or selling a security or related financial instrument when a member firm has material, nonpublic market information concerning an imminent block transaction in that security, a related financial instrument, or a security underlying the related financial instrument (subject to the exemptions discussed below). The front-running prohibition remains applicable until the block transaction has been "made publicly available" or "has otherwise become stale or obsolete."
Permitted Transactions: New Exemptions from Front-Running Restrictions
Rule 5270 includes "Supplementary Material" that sets forth three broad categories of permitted transactions:
Please bear in mind that Rule 5270 does not provide an exhaustive list of prohibited front-running activity.  "Related financial instruments" include derivatives and other financial contracts, e.g., any option, derivative, security-based swap, or other financial instrument overlying a security, the value of which is materially related to, or otherwise acts as a substitute for, such security, as well as any contract that is the functional economic equivalent of a position in such security.