Risk & Compliance

SEC Reviewing Rules for ‘Gamified’ Trading Apps

“If we don’t address this now, the investing public may shoulder a burden later,” SEC Chairman Gary Gensler says.
Matthew HellerMay 6, 2021
SEC Reviewing Rules for ‘Gamified’ Trading Apps

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is considering updating its rules to protect investors who use “gamified” apps such as Robinhood to make trades.

In prepared testimony for a House committee hearing, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler expressed concerns about apps that use features common to video games to “increase customer engagement,” noting that following the wrong prompt could cause a severe financial blow to the user.

“We need to ensure investors using apps with these types of features continue to be appropriately protected and consider how all of our rules apply in these situations,” he told the House Financial Services Committee.

With many SEC regulations having largely been written “before these recent technologies and communication practices became prevalent,” Gensler said, ”I think we need to evaluate our rules, and we may find that we need to freshen up our rule set.”

“If we don’t address this now, the investing public — those saving for their futures, retirements, and education — may shoulder a burden later,” he warned.

Thursday’s hearing was scheduled after frenzied trading in GameStop shares rocked financial markets earlier this year. Much of the trading took place on Robinhood and Democratic lawmakers have blamed gamification for the frenzy.

“Democrats are pressuring [Gensler] to take a tough stance on Wall Street after Gamestop’s fierce rally in January … and the March implosion of New York investment fund Archegos,” Reuters reported.

Gensler said in his prepared remarks that the SEC expects to publish a staff report assessing the market events over the summer and is “vigorously reviewing these events for any violations.”

Other areas of concern for the SEC chair include short-selling and market transparency and the practice, known as “payment for order flow,” of wholesalers paying retail brokerage firms for the right to trade with those firms’ customer orders.

“The professional investor community on Wall Street and Reddit rebellion of retail investors at home will be carefully listening to what the SEC chairman has to say about his thinking on how these financial activities are regulated,” said Dennis Kelleher, chief executive of Washington-based Better Markets.