WASHINGTON—Robinhood Financial LLC has agreed to pay $65 million to settle regulatory claims that it didn’t sufficiently disclose its business deals with high-speed trading firms, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Thursday.
The deal resolves an SEC investigation that looked at Robinhood’s failure until 2018 to reveal on its website how it makes money from its deals with speedy trading firms such as Citadel Securities and Virtu Financial Inc. Robinhood and other retail brokerage firms generate revenue by routing customers’ orders to high-speed traders, which pay for the right to execute many of the trades.
The practice, known as payment for order flow, can create a conflict of interest for brokers like Robinhood because of the incentive to send orders to the highest bidder. Retail brokers say the practice can generate slightly better prices for customers than if they traded on a stock exchange, and allows the brokers to offer commission-free trading.
However, Robinhood’s customers got prices “that were inferior to other brokers’ prices,” the SEC said in a press release. The firm nonetheless claimed on its website from 2018 to 2019 that its order-execution quality was as good or better than its rivals’, the SEC said.
Robinhood resolved the case without admitting or denying the SEC allegations, and said the settlement applies to problems that “do not reflect Robinhood today.”