Welfare Analysis of Dark Pools
52 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2012 Last revised: 15 Jul 2018
Date Written: December 1, 2016
We investigate the role of a class of alternative market structures known as electronic crossing networks or "dark pools''. Relative to traditional "lit'' markets, dark pools offer investors the trade-off of reduced transaction costs in exchange for greater uncertainty of trade. Our paper studies the welfare implications of operating a dark pool alongside traditional lit markets. We study equilibria of a market with intrinsic traders and speculators, each endowed with heterogeneous fine-grained information, who endogenously choose between dark and lit venues. We establish that while dark pools attract relatively uninformed investors, the orders therein experience an implicit transaction cost in the form of adverse selection. On the other hand, we show that dark pools facilitate trade between relatively less informed intrinsic traders and speculators, inducing a positive liquidity effect on welfare. We study the interplay of these countervailing pressures on market welfare, and quantify regimes in which the welfare rises or falls upon the introduction of a dark pool.
Keywords: dark pools, welfare, adverse selection, competitive markets
JEL Classification: C70, C72, D40, D41, G10, G14, G18, G20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation