SAFE Working Paper No. 253

Quasi-Dark Trading: The Effects of Banning Dark Pools in a World of Many Alternatives

We show that “quasi-dark” trading venues, i.e., markets with somewhat non-transparent trading mechanisms, are important parts of modern equity market structure alongside lit markets and dark pools. Using the European MiFID II regulation as a quasi-natural experiment, we find that dark pool bans lead to (i) volume spill-overs into quasi-dark trading mechanisms including periodic auctions and order internalization systems; (ii) little volume returning to transparent public markets; and consequently, (iii) a negligible impact on market liquidity and short-term price efficiency. These results show that quasi-dark markets serve as close substitutes for dark pools and consequently mitigate the effectiveness of dark pool regulation. Our findings highlight the need for a broader approach to transparency regulation in modern markets that takes into consideration the many alternative forms of quasi-dark trading.