Stock Exchange Risks Sanctions Over System Outages

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After two trade outages, financial regulators in Sweden and Norway are taking a close look at stock exchanges operated by Nasdaq OMX in several Nordic business hubs, and could impose fines if the company is found to be negligent.

On the morning of June 2 trading did not open until 9:40 a.m. on the OMX Nordic Exchange and the Oslo Stock Exchange. On June 3 the same problem recurred, but trading didn't start until 2:30 p.m. Stock exchanges in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Reykjavik and Oslo were all affected.

"It was a series of events -- related to our operating system, network and the new version of our trading system Saxess, that collided, and resulted in the two outages," said Carl Norell, press officer at Nasdaq OMX Group, which owns OMX Nordic Exchange.

On Wednesday it turned over a report detailing the events that led up the trade outages to Finansinspektionen, the financial supervisory authority in Sweden. Its investigation, expected to take about a month, will see if Nasdaq OMX handled everything by regulation, according to Annika Von Haartman, who is in charge of market oversight at Finansinspektionen.

If it concludes that Nasdaq OMX somehow failed, it has a number sanction options.

"We can give it a reprimand, have it pay a fine between 5,000 (US$820) and 50 million Swedish kronor or as a last resort revoke its license," said Von Haartman.

She doesn't want to speculate on what a proportional sanction would be, but underscores that Finansinspektionen takes this matter very seriously.

The Norwegian financial supervisory authority Kredittilsynet is waiting for a full report from the Oslo Stock Exchange, so it can launch its investigation into the outages, according to special advisor Knut Godager.

Oslo Stock Exchange (Oslo Børs) isn't a part of OMX Nordic Exchange, but uses the same trading system. "We will turn in full a report by the end of next week," said Tor Arne Olsen, spokesman at Oslo Stock Exchange.

At the beginning of next week it receive a more detailed root cause analysis from Nasdaq OMX, according to Norell.

Kredittilsynet can also dole out a reprimand, or demand system improvements, but these things usually solve themselves, since it's also in the interest of the stock exchange that its systems work properly, according to Godager.

Finally there remains the question of whether the outages indicate a breach of the service level agreement between Oslo Stock Exchange and OMX Technology. Olsen doesn't believe so, but since uptime is measured over a longer period that remains to seen.

"We still have every confidence in the platform," said Olsen.

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