Waddell & Reed responds to 'flash crash' reports

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Investment firm Waddell & Reed responded Friday to a media report that it placed a large sell order for certain stock futures that regulators believe may have contributed to last week's brief-but-historic stock market crash.

In what has come to be known as the flash crash, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 1,000 points -- the biggest intra-day trading drop ever -- on May 6, briefly erasing $1 trillion in market value, before regaining much of the lost ground.

While the ultimate cause of the collapse remains unknown, regulators have focused their investigation on a sharp drop in the value of a stock future called the E-mini S&P 500, which investors use to bet on the future performance of stocks in the broad stock index.

Waddell, an asset management and financial planning company based in Overland Park, Kan., sold a large order of E-mini futures contracts during a 20-minute span that corresponded with the plunge, according to a document obtained by Reuters.

In a statement, Waddell said it was one of possibly 250 other investors trading the E-mini futures contract on the day in question.

"On May 6, as on many trading days, Waddell & Reed executed several trading strategies, including index futures contracts, as part of the normal operation of our flexible portfolio funds," the firm said in a statement.

Waddell added that such trades are used to protect investors from potential losses, adding that the firm is a "'bona fide hedger' and not someone intending to disrupt the markets."

"This is a longstanding and well-monitored practice in certain of our investment portfolios," said Waddell.

Waddell (WAD) shares fell 5% to $32.38 Friday.

Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said in congressional testimony Tuesday that regulators were focusing on one particular trader in the market for E-mini futures as part of the commission's investigation into the flash crash.

Gensler said the trader in question entered the market at around 2:32 p.m. ET on May 6 and finished trading by around 2:51 p.m. ET. He said this trader and others had executed hedging strategies of similar size previously.

A spokesman for the CFTC said the agency has no comment on the report.  To top of page

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