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Order Audit Trail System (OATS)


The Order Audit Trail System (OATS) is a system established by FINRA, a U.S. self-regulatory organization for broker-dealers. It regulates the recording and reporting of order events across the national market system. Essentially, it helps track each stage of an order’s life cycle from creation, modification, and cancellation to execution.


Order Audit Trail System (OATS) in phonetics is: /ˈɔrdər ˈɔdɪt treɪl ˈsɪstəm/

Key Takeaways

  1. The Order Audit Trail System (OATS) is a computer system established by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) that can capture data on every stage of a trade’s life cycle. This includes capturing, routing, modification, cancellation, or the execution of an order.
  2. The main objective of OATS is to create a comprehensive and accurate audit trail that regulatory bodies can use for surveillance and investigations. Through this system, regulatory bodies can easily detect and investigate potentially abusive or illegal trading activities.
  3. FINRA member firms are obligated to report trade-related information to OATS. The information they submit includes a detailed account of an order’s lifecycle, right from its original receipt to its time of execution or cancellation. Failure to comply with this reporting requirement can lead to disciplinary action by FINRA.


The Order Audit Trail System (OATS), a system used by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), is critically important because it allows for effective monitoring and regulation of the activities in the U.S. securities industry. By providing a comprehensive, automated, and standardized mechanism for tracking and auditing orders, OATS helps to ensure comprehensive supervision of all trading activities, thereby maintaining market integrity, protecting investors, and promoting fair and transparent trading. Without OATS, detecting misconduct such as insider trading or market manipulation would be significantly more difficult. Therefore, the system plays a crucial role in sustaining confidence in the financial markets and facilitating regulatory compliance.


The Order Audit Trail System (OATS), instituted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), serves a critical role in ensuring transparency and maintaining integrity in the securities industry. This system is designed to audit the lifecycle of an order, meticulously recording each phase from inception, modifications, and cancellations, through to the order’s execution or expiration. By maintaining these comprehensive records, OATS provides an indispensable tool for detecting potential trading irregularities or violations, thus enhancing the overall fairness and reliability of the market.Essentially, OATS acts as a protective mechanism in the securities industry, facilitating comprehensive surveillance and regulation. By tracking every detail of the order process, it enables regulatory bodies to identify and investigate any discrepancies, suspicious patterns, or potential misconduct which could compromise financial market integrity. This could range from manipulative or illicit trading practices to instances of brokers failing to execute their clients’ orders in a timely or equitable manner. Hence, it serves not merely as a deterrent but also a key investigative tool in upholding the appropriate standards of the industry.


1. Charles Schwab Corporation: This well-known brokerage firm must use the OATS system to their advantage, recording and reporting key order information for all their trades. For example, when a day trader executes a significant volume of trades through a Schwab brokerage account, each transaction is automatically logged and reported via OATS. This ensures regulatory compliance and provides a clear audit trail that both protects the client and the brokerage firm.2. Merrill Lynch: With a vast number of transactions moving in and out of Merrill Lynch on a daily basis, using the Order Audit Trail System (OATS) plays a crucial role in keeping track of all the orders, quotes, and trades that are transacted by this entity. The OATS records allow them to keep track of the specifics of the trades such as the sequence of the events and the people involved. This good record keeping is vital in case of any future investigations or queries regarding a specific transaction.3. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE): It is yet another instance where OATS is used widely. All member firms are required to submit their daily records of trading information to the regulators. This information usually encompasses the time when the order was received, the details about the specific terms of orders, and even the modification or cancellations of orders. The NYSE uses this information to maintain the exchange’s integrity and resolve any disputes that might arise, demonstrating the real-world use of the OATS system.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Order Audit Trail System (OATS)?

The Order Audit Trail System (OATS) is a computer system operated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). It is designed to record all activities related to the life cycle of an order, including its receipt, routing, modification, cancellation, or execution.

Why is OATS important in the finance and business industry?

OATS is essential for maintaining transparency and integrity in the financial sector. It helps regulators inspect and police firms’ activities, ensuring all transactions are accurately recorded and the rules are followed.

Who uses the Order Audit Trail System (OATS)?

OATS is used by member firms of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). These firms are required to record and keep track of all order events, from the time an order is received until it’s either cancelled, modified or executed.

How is the data in the OATS used?

The data in OATS is used by FINRA and other regulatory authorities to conduct surveillance and investigations of member firms for violations of securities laws and FINRA’s rules. It allows the regulatory authority to reconstruct markets to detect fraudulent activities.

Do all businesses need to use OATS?

Not all businesses need to use OATS. OATS is primarily used by businesses that are member firms of FINRA. It may also apply to firms required to record respective order events under regulatory obligations in the United States.

How does a business provide information to the OATS?

Businesses must submit their order information to OATS electronically, using either the OATS Web Interface or via the Electronic Filing Platform (EFP) in a properly formatted file.

Are there any penalties for non-compliance with OATS regulations?

Yes, failure to comply with OATS requirements can result in substantial penalties including fines, censures, or even expulsion from FINRA membership.

How long do firms need to keep records of their order events?

As per FINRA rules, firms are required to keep records related to order events for at least three years.

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