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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Nasdaq, NYSE and the Cboe are seeking to block their regulator, the SEC, from implementing a new pricing program. The 3 exchanges say the program would harm investors by driving up trading costs, but those who are in favor of the rule say investors are better off.

Why it matters: The SEC says what's been called the "biggest stock market experiment in more than a decade" is designed to benefit retail investors. But the stock exchanges are fighting back against a major prong in Trump appointee Jay Clayton's push to re-regulate stock exchanges.

What's happening: Later this year, the SEC will begin a pilot program for up to 2 years that would prohibit exchanges from paying some fees to big brokers like Charles Schwab or TD Ameritrade.

  • The operators, which together control all but one major U.S. stock exchange, use fees to attract brokers to execute trades on their exchange as opposed to carrying out orders on private exchanges — which offer brokers no fees.

What they're saying:

  • "The SEC's transaction fee pilot is the exact opposite of what our markets need. It will harm capital formation [and] severely damage market participation with wider spreads," a Nasdaq spokesman tells Axios in a statement.
  • The current fee structure has helped "offset consequences — such as reduced liquidity — of SEC policies," NYSE President Stacey Cunningham said in an op-ed last week.

The other side: The current system, allows exchanges to “pay incentives for people to send investors’ orders to places where they get a worse price,” John Ramsay, IEX Group's chief market policy officer and former acting head of Trading & Markets at the SEC, tells Axios.

  • James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown who's filed public comment in support of the SEC's program, says most investors would "need an electron microscope to detect the difference" in trading costs when the pilot goes into effect.

What to watch: That the fight between the exchanges and the SEC has escalated to two separate court filings is unusual because the "SEC usually consults closely with the exchanges," Adam Clark Joseph, a finance professor at the University of Illinois, tells Axios. "In the past, lots that has been subject to disagreement ... has gotten smoothed out in advance."

Our thought bubble: Clayton, a lawyer who made millions from his firm's work with Wall Street banks like Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs, has made pushing for the "interests of America’s retail investors" a primary focus of his administration. It appears this iteration has seriously stoked the ire of America's biggest exchanges. There's likely more to come.

Go deeper: SEC sues press release hackers for 2016 breach

Go deeper

Trump can't quit mainstream media

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa are interviewed by Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" in September. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa issued a rebuttal on Friday to a statement by former President Donald Trump that misrepresented their reporting — and once again showed the 45th president's thin skin about mainstream media.

Driving the news: "Former President Trump said ... our book, 'Peril,' implied that he was planning to go to war with China," the statement begins. "[W]e report that Chairman of Joint Chiefs Mark Milley 'believed that Trump did not want a war' before or after the 2020 election."

NY declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron COVID variant

Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement about a new plan transforming Penn Station on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday declared a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19 cases and the newly-identified Omicron variant of the virus.

Driving the news: The declaration enables the state to acquire supplies to fight a potential surge in cases, increase hospital capacity and combat potential staff shortages, NBC's local affiliate reports.

4 hours ago - Health

First cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant discovered in U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Two cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant were detected in the United Kingdom overnight, the U.K. Health Security Agency announced Saturday.

Why it matters: The discovery comes as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.