NYSE cries foul as Nasdaq sets Facebook payout deal

Posted at 06/07/2012 9:35 AM | Updated as of 06/07/2012 10:02 AM

NEW YORK - Nasdaq said Wednesday it is setting aside $40 million to cover brokers' trading losses due to computer glitches that disrupted the launch of Facebook shares onto the market on May 18.

The huge electronic market's chief apologized for the foul-up, which marred the $16 billion Facebook share issue, the most hotly awaited initial public offering on the US markets in years.

But the compensation plan immediately ran into objections from one broker calling it deeply inadequate and also from the rival New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), which said the plan masked a scheme to steal business away from it.

"We have been embarrassed and certainly we've apologized to the industry," Robert Greifeld, chief executive of the market operator Nasdaq OMX, told CNBC television.

Nasdaq OMX announced that the company's board had approved a "one-time voluntary accommodations program" that would pay $13.7 million in cash to Nasdaq member firms, with the rest to be credited to qualified claimants "to reduce trading costs" over six months.

The compensation plan will apply to claimed losses on trades made in Facebook stock on the first day between the IPO price of $38 -- also the day's low -- and up to $42.

The stock hit a high of $45.00 on the first day, but since then has lost nearly 30 percent from the IPO, on Wednesday closing at $26.81.

The plan requires the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the independent Financial Industry Regulatory Authority will evaluate claims from the brokers, Nasdaq said.

Facebook's $16 billion IPO overwhelmed Nasdaq's systems when it hit the market on May 18, forcing a half-hour delay in opening trading and leaving investors and brokers in the dark for hours over the results of orders involving millions of shares.

Claims of losses related to the market's computer problems are estimated above $100 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The systems problem dealt a black eye to the exchange, which trades some of the world's largest companies including Apple and Microsoft.

It also sparked reports that the NYSE was trying to woo Facebook away from Nasdaq.

The NYSE raised strong objections to the compensation plan.

"We believe it would be wholly inconsistent with fair practice and an undue burden on competition to allow Nasdaq to use pricing and other machinations as a guise for fairly compensating those impacted by the Facebook IPO issues," it said in a statement.

"Such a tactic would potentially strongly incent customers to divert order flow to Nasdaq in order to receive compensation to which they are entitled, and allow Nasdaq to reap a benefit from market share gains they would not have otherwise received."

Meanwhile Knight Capital, one of several broker-dealers claiming large losses due to Nasdaq's technical problems on the opening day, called the compensation scheme "simply unacceptable."

"Clearly, we are disappointed that Nasdaq's compensation fund does not come close to covering reported losses from broker-dealers like Knight who traded Facebook shares on behalf of average investors the day of the IPO, and who suffered losses as a result of Nasdaq's failures in connection with this IPO," Knight said.

"As previously stated, the company is evaluating all remedies available under law."

On May 24 the New York broker asked Nasdaq to compensate it for up to $35 million on the IPO.

In addition at least one class-action lawsuit has been filed in New York against the exchange over claimed losses on Facebook shares due to the systems problems.

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