Nasdaq CEO blames software for delayed Facebook IPO trading

‘Manually Intercepted’

“We saw on a real-time basis, obviously with the pressure of the world upon us, that this was happening,” Greifeld said. “We then manually intercepted this cross,” he said. “That manual intervention said we had to ignore the cancels that came in between the raindrops as we were processing the trade.”

Responding to the malfunction, Nasdaq altered its IPO procedures today. The exchange operator said it will no longer accept “cross-eligible” order modifications after the auction’s final price calculation has begun, according to an e- mailed statement.

Nasdaq wound up with 5,000 shares of Facebook because of its intervention, Greifeld said. A broker was used to sell the stock that had been placed in the exchange’s so-called error account for $10 million. Greifeld said he would ask the SEC for permission to add the money to the $3 million available from the exchange, according to its rules, to repay investors that should have received trades.

Some Dispute

Orders totaling 30 million shares were submitted into the opening auction between 11:11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Greifeld said. About half of them may involve “some level of dispute,” he said. Greifeld said he didn’t think the delay in starting trading affected the price of Facebook shares.

Adding to the day’s confusion, Nasdaq reported an issue after trading began with confirming transactions from the opening auction with the brokerages that placed them. The exchange said in a statement posted to its website at 11:59 a.m. New York time that it was having a problem delivering the messages. An update at about 1:57 p.m. said they had been sent.

Nasdaq said today that Zynga Inc.’s trading delays on May 18 were caused by the Facebook malfunction. The stock was halted twice by marketwide volatility circuit breakers that normally last five minutes. One went for about 50 minutes and another was more than an hour.

‘Bizarre Ways’

“When you have a complex market system that gets overwhelmed, it fails in bizarre ways,” James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University in Washington, said in a phone interview on May 18. “If you don’t know whether you got filled, you don’t know your position. If you’re buying you might buy more shares and then suddenly you’ve got twice as many shares as you wanted. It makes it hard to do your risk management and hard for brokers to know how much credit to extend to customers.”

Underwriters purchased shares to keep them from falling below $38, people with knowledge of the matter said. The bankers supported the stock amid Nasdaq’s difficulties delivering trade execution messages, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the transactions are private.

Facebook was originally scheduled to open at 11 a.m. At about 11:07 a.m., a Nasdaq official told market participants on a conference call that the exchange was delaying the opening. Aside from assurances that an update was coming, the phone line went silent until just before the first trade at about 11:30 a.m., according to two people who were on the call and asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.

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