SEC rules NYSE, Nasdaq didn’t justify market data fee increases

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The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday ruled the country’s biggest exchanges didn’t justify increases in fees they charge for certain market-data products that brokers and traders consider essential to their business.

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The commission, in an order released Tuesday, overturned a prior approval of fees charged by the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq for specially designed data feeds they sell, which reveal far more detail about market activity than the ticker tape that investors see on financial-news stations. The regulatory intervention casts doubt on the ability of the big U.S. stock exchanges to extract additional profits from the rest of the financial industry by selling information on stock orders at ever-higher rates.

The SEC action comes in response to a long-running lawsuit that pits Wall Street’s largest brokerages against the exchanges selling market data.

Brokers say the high fees make it harder to compete in a business where speed and data-driven decisions are crucial elements of success. The data feeds are a lucrative business for the exchanges, which deny overcharging or acting as monopolists.

The exchanges are expected to ask a federal appeals court to overturn the SEC’s decision.

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The legal fight has bounced between the SEC and federal appeals courts for over a decade.

A coalition of internet companies that used the data first appealed an NYSE fee hike in 2006, and a Wall Street trade association joined the tech firms in taking the dispute to a federal appeals court in 2009. The SEC later combined the case with a similar legal challenge to a Nasdaq fee proposal.

Intercontinental Exchange Inc. is the parent company of NYSE.

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