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Front-running is an illegal trading practice in which a broker executes orders on a security for its own benefit, using advance knowledge of pending orders from its customers. Essentially, the broker trades in these securities ahead of the customers’ orders. It manipulates the price to the broker’s advantage, exploiting their foreknowledge of upcoming transactions.


The phonetic spelling of “Front-Running” is: /ˈfrʌnt ˈrʌnɪŋ/

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Front-running is an unethical and usually illegal trading activity where those who possess insider knowledge conduct trades before the same trades are carried out by their clients. This gives the front-runner a significant advantage in the market.</li><li>It is considered illegal and unethical because it gives an unfair advantage to those with insider information, often leading to price manipulation and a lack of transparency in the market. It erodes trust in the financial system and can lead to severe penalties if caught.</li><li>Although mechanisms are being put in place to prevent front-running, such as trading algorithms and tighter security protocols, it still remains to be a concern, especially in cryptocurrency trading platforms where monitoring is more lacking. Thus, it’s crucial for market participants to be aware and vigilant against such practices.</li></ol>


Front-running is a crucial term in business and finance because it represents a highly unethical and often illegal trading practice that involves brokers or dealers exploiting knowledge of their customers’ pending orders to achieve profit. They can execute orders on a security for its own account, leveraging advance knowledge of impending transactions that will influence the price of the security. This manipulative practice is important to acknowledge and understand because it grossly infringes upon fairness and transparency, which are fundamental principles of any healthy, competitive market. Thus, regulatory authorities globally penalize front-running severely to preserve market integrity, protect investor interests, and prevent manipulation. Awareness of this term helps one to better understand market dynamics and the importance of ethical trading.


Front-running involves the practice of a broker executing orders on a security for its own account while taking advantage of advance knowledge of pending orders from its customers. It primarily serves the purpose of capitalizing on the imminent fluctuation in market prices caused by sizeable orders. The broker could potentially profit by taking a position in the market first, then executing the client’s order which can impact the market, and finally liquidating their own position. For example, if a broker is aware that a client is about to place a substantial order for a particular stock, they may decide to buy shares of the same stock first so they can benefit from the resulting increase in price. While the broker benefits from this practice, it’s important to note that front-running is considered unethical and is also illegal due to the unfair advantage it gives to brokers over other market participants. As such, it is heavily frowned upon in the financial industry and can lead to severe penalties.


Front-running is an unethical and illegal practice where a broker or other entity enters into a trade because they have foreknowledge of a big non-publicized transaction that will influence the price of the asset, thus potentially making a significant profit. Here are three real-world examples:1. Citadel Securities LLC Settlement (2020): In March 2020, Citadel Securities LLC agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a federal regulator’s claims that it engaged in multiple instances of trading ahead of customer orders, also known as front-running. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Citadel Securities executed trades for its own account while delaying client orders that it had taken to the floor of an exchange, resulting in the practice known as front-running. 2. Bank of Canada Governor’s Scandal (1989): John Crow, the governor of Bank of Canada, made a surprise announcement of a significant increase in interest rates on New Year’s Eve of 1989. However, before his announcement, numerous monetary organizations had already adjusted their positions based on this news, suggesting someone leaked the information. This sparked off an enormous scandal about front-running.3. Pipeline Trading Systems LLC (2011): In a notable case, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged a brokerage firm, Pipeline Trading Systems LLC, and three top executives for failing to disclose to customers that the vast majority of orders were filled by a trading entity controlled by Pipeline. The undisclosed entity was given information about client orders and used it to engage in what was essentially ‘front-running’. Remember, front-running is unethical and illegal, and punishments may include heavy fines and reputational damage.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Front-Running in finance and business?

Front-Running is a strategy where an individual, typically a broker or other securities market participant, tries to profit by making trades on a stock or other security based on insider knowledge of a large impending transaction that will influence the price of the asset.

Is Front-Running legal?

No, Front-Running is illegal and highly unethical. It is considered a form of insider trading as it abuses privileged information not yet made available to the public. It is punishable by law under the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the U.S.

How can Front-Running affect the financial markets?

Front-Running can harm the integrity of financial markets. It can lead to market manipulation and loss of investor faith, which will undermine the fairness and transparency of the markets.

How is Front-Running detected?

Regulatory bodies and exchanges use algorithms and surveillance systems to detect patterns associated with Front-Running. Additionally, unexpected price movements or volumes before large orders may also indicate Front-Running.

What are the penalties for someone caught Front-Running?

Penalties for Front-Running can range from financial fines to criminal charges, which may lead to imprisonment. The severity of the penalty usually depends on the jurisdiction and the specific nature of the offence.

Example of Front-Running?

An example of Front-Running would be if a broker knew that a client was about to make a large purchase of a specific stock. The broker could buy shares of that same stock for his own account before placing the client’s order, knowing that the client’s large order would likely push up the price of the stock.

How can Front-Running be prevented?

Front-Running can be prevented through robust regulation and enforcement, technological improvements in detecting such activities, and strong internal controls and ethics within financial institutions. It is also essential to educate brokers and traders about the serious legal and ethical ramifications of Front-Running.

What’s the difference between Front-Running and insider trading?

Front-Running and insider trading are similar in that they both involve trading based on non-public information. However, the main difference lies in the source of the information. Front-Running typically involves brokers acting on information from client orders, while insider trading involves individuals trading based on confidential, material information about the company that’s not yet disclosed to the public.

Related Finance Terms

  • Insider Trading: The unethical practice of trading in a public company’s stock by someone with access to confidential, non-public information about the company.
  • Market Manipulation: Any scheme or strategy involving transactions in securities intended to distort the market’s true supply and demand.
  • High-frequency Trading (HFT): A type of algorithmic financial trading characterized by high speeds, high turnover rates, and high order-to-trade ratios that leverages high-frequency financial data.
  • SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission): TheUnited States’ regulatory authority for the securities industry, which also oversees the financial markets and accounting standards boards.
  • Financial Market Transparency: The degree to which traders, investors, and other market participants can access clear, consistent, correct, and timely information about the prices, volumes, and other relevant data for financial instruments.

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