Interactive Brokers sort of invented high-frequency trading: Founder Thomas Peterffy set up the first fully automated algorithmic trading system all the way back in 1987. But, right around the same time that everyone else was deciding that HFT was a bad thing, Peterffy & co. turned on their baby and became the first online broker to offer direct access to IEX, the securities exchange more or less invented to stop the worst abuses of HFT and whose praises could not have been more highly sung by the Bard of Bad HFT, Michael Lewis. Indeed, Interactive became the very first—and, as it turned out, one and only—company to list on the IEX outright during the exchange’s ill-fated effort to challenge the NYSE and Nasdaq on that front.
Whatever you think about its changes of heart, however, jumping on the Flash Boys ship was certainly good business for Interactive, which saw “dramatic growth” beginning in 2013, making Peterffy Florida’s richest man (sorry, David Tepper). Unfortunately for Interactive, the quote above comes from a FINRA press release, because there were some important parts of the firm that weren’t growing as dramatically as they should have been—certainly not as dramatically as Peterffy’s wealth.
Interactive Brokers LLC will pay $38 million in penalties to settle charges it failed to flag suspicious activity and meet anti-money laundering requirements, U.S. markets regulators said on Monday…. Widespread anti-money laundering failures… persisted for over five years, FINRA said. Interactive Brokers saw “dramatic growth” in its business from January 2013 to September 2018, becoming one of the largest electronic broker-dealers in the United States, but failed to dedicate necessary resources to properly surveil hundreds of millions of dollars in wire transfers or to reasonably investigate suspicious activity, according to FINRA.