City of Providence, Rhode Island v. BATS Global Markets, Inc.

Updated: December 20, 2017
Status: Ongoing Case

Two years after dismissal, we successfully revived the case in an appeals court victory.

Labaton Sucharow serves as co-lead counsel in a landmark securities class action case involving allegations of market manipulation via high frequency trading (HFT). The action was filed on behalf of investors that traded on a registered public stock exchange or a U.S.-based alternate trading venue, between April 18, 2009 and the present, and asserted claims against: (1) registered public stock exchanges located in the United States; (2) a class of brokerage firms; and (3) a class of HFT firms. 

Echoing the reporting found in Michael Lewis’ 2014 book, “Flash Boys,” the case alleges, among other things, that certain defendants permitted HFT firms, to purchase access to non-public investor order information, allowing them to profit at the expense of the class and to manipulate securities markets in violation of federal securities laws. 

Facing a dismissal in 2015, our team appealed and prevailed—essentially reviving the case in December 2017. A New York Federal Appeals Court panel, led by Senior Circuit Judge John Walker Jr., ruled that major U.S. stock exchanges catering to high-frequency firms do not have absolute immunity from any of the investor claims against them and remanded the case back to U.S. District Court. 

The appeals court also affirmed the district court’s ruling that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the case and struck down its holding that the plaintiffs had not sufficiently alleged the exchanges engaged in manipulative conduct. It further ruled, contrary to the holding by the district court, that such conduct constituted a primary violation of those laws, not a claim for aiding and abetting liability for which there is no private right of action.

The case is City of Providence, Rhode Island v. Bats Global Markets, Inc., No. 15-cv-3057 (S.D.N.Y.). The lead plaintiffs are City of Providence, Boston Retirement System, Plumbers and Pipefitters National Pension Fund, and Employees’ Retirement System of the Government of the Virgin Islands. The defendants include seven public stock exchanges BATS Global Markets Inc., Chicago Stock Exchange Inc., Direct Edge ECN LLC, the Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, Nasdaq OMX BX Inc., New York Stock Exchange LLC, and NYSE Arca Inc.; as well as one dark pool operator, Barclays Capital, Inc. and parent company Barclays PLC.

Background
“High frequency trading” is an umbrella term that covers any type of securities trading that uses computer algorithms to achieve extremely short response times for its transactions. The action alleges that defendants participated in predatory practices and wrongful courses of business that manipulated the trading of equities on the exchanges and diverted billions of dollars annually from the class. The defendants’ manipulation is alleged to have taken on several forms, such as electronic front-running, rebate arbitrage, slow market or latency arbitrage, spoofing, layering and insider/contemporaneous trading.

Case Materials

Appeals Court Opinion