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Interactive Brokers to offer direct routing to 'Flash Boys' dark pool IEX

Interactive Brokers announced Thursday that it will offer retail trading customers the first direct connection to the new trading platform IEX.

IEX bills itself as a platform designed to resist the techniques of high-frequency traders, building in extra cable lengths to slow down some transactions and limiting the number of complex order types.

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It has received enormous attention in the wake of the Michael Lewis book "Flash Boys," which details the growing disillusionment of its founders with high-frequency trading and what they saw as its legalized "front running" of slower traders.

IEX founder Brad Katsuyama engaged in a spirited debate over stock exchange ethics with Bill O'Brien,president of BATs Global Markets exchange, on CNBC earlier this week.

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In the debate, O'Brien accused Lewis and Katsuyama of trying to promote IEX by stoking fears about high-frequency trading. "It's a very, very old tactic – to try to build a business on the planks of fear, mistrust and accusations. This is certainly taking that to a new level."

But Interactive Brokers says it doesn't want to take sides in that fight. "Our view is that we're always happy to hook in any new exchange that's going to get our customers best-price execution," said Steve Sanders, the executive vice president of marketing and product development of Interactive Brokers. "We do wish them the best of luck and we hope that they do have something that will help, but we don't want to take sides. We let the objective facts decide."

Brad Katsuyama, chief executive officer of IEX Group Inc.
Chris Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Brad Katsuyama, chief executive officer of IEX Group Inc.

Under the service, which is expected to be available in 5 to 10 days, customers will be able to allow Interactive Broker's "smart router" decide for them which exchange on which to execute an order, or specify that they only want the trade to happen on IEX.

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Given the publicity surrounding the "Flash Boys" book and IEX, there may be a group of customers who only want to trade on IEX – even though getting the best price there can't always be guaranteed.

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The size of that market is impossible to gauge, however. "I have no idea how many people feel that way," Sanders said.

- By CNBC's Eamon Javers

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