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Business Wire to stop selling directly to high-frequency traders

Luciana Lopez
Thursday, 20 Feb 2014 | 6:03 PM ET

NEW YORK, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Business Wire will no longer let high-frequency trading companies buy potentially market-moving press releases directly from the Berkshire Hathaway unit.

In consultation with billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Berkshire's chairman, "Business Wire has made the decision to no longer allow high frequency trading firms to license direct feeds from Business Wire," Cathy Baron Tamraz, chairwoman and chief executive of Business Wire, said in a release on Thursday.

Business Wire distributes hundreds of thousands of corporate press releases a year, from the inconsequential to regulatory filings of major importance - which can help push a stock sharply higher or lower.

A source familiar with the matter said that Business Wire had been in discussions with the New York State Attorney General's office since October, not long after AG Eric T. Schneiderman gave a speech about such practices.

Schneiderman on Thursday encouraged other information services companies to adopt a similar stance.

"I strongly encourage other participants in this industry to follow the leadership of companies like Business Wire and join us in the effort to level the playing field between high-frequency traders and the rest of the investing public," he said in a release.

Tamraz referenced a Wall Street Journal article earlier in the month that noted the difference in profits that milliseconds can make to traders who use sophisticated technology to execute ultra-fast orders.

Critics have pointed the finger at such high-frequency trading for volatile market moves, such as the "flash crash," or abrupt plunge in shares, in 2010.

But supporters of high-frequency trading say it adds liquidity to markets.

Tamraz defended the practice, but noted the potential for reputational damage nonetheless.

"As the recent Wall Street Journal article and others have pointed out, there was nothing wrong in Business Wire serving these handful of HFTs directly," Tamraz said in the statement.

"However, in discussions that have taken place with a few of our clients, we learned that the article may have caused some misperceptions, and that was of deep concern to us," she added.

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