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Late-Day Trading: Definition, Impact, and Regulatory Measures

Last updated 03/15/2024 by

Alessandra Nicole

Edited by

Fact checked by

Summary:
Late-day trading involves the illegal practice of executing trades after hours but recording them as occurring before a mutual fund’s daily net asset value (NAV) calculation. This unethical behavior provides an unfair advantage to some investors, violating federal securities laws. The article explores the mechanics of late-day trading, its regulatory framework, enforcement efforts, and notable cases of fines imposed for violations.

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Understanding late-day trading

Late-day trading is a deceptive practice wherein trades are executed after hours but recorded with an earlier timestamp, usually before a mutual fund’s daily NAV calculation. This manipulation allows certain investors to exploit events occurring after market hours to their advantage. For instance, a hedge fund may place trades after receiving information that impacts a fund’s value, such as significant earnings announcements.
The illegality of late-day trading stems from its violation of federal securities laws, including Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. By artificially adjusting trade timestamps, perpetrators deceive mutual funds and unfairly benefit from advantageous pricing based on outdated NAV calculations.

Late-day trading regulations

Regulatory authorities have implemented measures to combat late-day trading and protect investors’ interests. Initially, rules required broker-dealers and investment advisors to verify trade placement times. However, this system proved inadequate, leading to revisions in 2003 and 2004.
The updated regulations shifted responsibility to mutual funds to ensure compliance with trading deadlines. Purchase and redemption orders must be received before NAV calculation time, and prospectus disclosures related to market timing have been strengthened. These measures aim to prevent late-day trading and enhance transparency in mutual fund operations.

Late-day trading fines

Numerous cases have highlighted the severity of late-day trading violations and resulted in substantial fines. Notable among these is the SEC’s enforcement action against Pentagon Capital Management, a UK-based hedge fund. The fund was fined $98.6 million for engaging in late-day trades through its broker-dealer to profit from post-market information.
Courts have consistently upheld the fraudulent nature of late-day trading, emphasizing its deceitful intent and detrimental impact on investors. Despite attempts to evade liability, perpetrators have been held accountable for manipulating trade timestamps and unfairly exploiting market dynamics.
WEIGH THE RISKS AND BENEFITS
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
Pros
  • Provides investors with an opportunity to profit from events occurring after market hours.
Cons
  • Unethical practice that unfairly disadvantages other investors.
  • Violates federal securities laws and can result in substantial fines.

Frequently asked questions

What are the consequences of late-day trading?

Late-day trading can dilute the value of mutual fund shares and harm long-term investors. It violates federal securities laws and can result in significant fines for perpetrators.

How can investors protect themselves from late-day trading?

Investors can mitigate the risk of late-day trading by carefully scrutinizing mutual fund prospectuses and monitoring their investment accounts for any suspicious activity. Additionally, staying informed about regulatory changes and market developments can help investors make informed decisions.

Are there any exceptions to the prohibition on late-day trading?

No, late-day trading is uniformly prohibited under federal securities laws. There are no exceptions or circumstances where this practice is permissible.

What role do regulatory authorities play in combating late-day trading?

Regulatory authorities, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), enforce laws and regulations governing securities trading, including prohibitions on late-day trading. They conduct investigations, impose fines, and work to maintain the integrity of financial markets.

Key takeaways

  • Late-day trading involves recording trades executed after hours as occurring before a mutual fund’s NAV calculation, violating federal securities laws.
  • Regulatory measures aim to prevent late-day trading by requiring compliance with trading deadlines and enhancing transparency in mutual fund operations.
  • Notable fines have been imposed for late-day trading violations, highlighting regulatory authorities’ efforts to enforce securities laws and maintain market integrity.

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