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Shoonya glitch a wake-up call for bourses, Sebi on perils of rampant options trading

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On the morning of April 13, clients of discount broking platform Shoonya panicked after realising they were unable to put through trades. Reason: a technical error in the broker’s system. To complicate matters further, many traders using the Shoonya app saw their accounts showing trades they had not done.

Thursday being the expiry for weekly contracts in Bank Nifty and Nifty, these traders did not want to take a chance. Unable to square off the positions on Shoonya, they took offsetting positions through other brokers to minimise potential losses. Traders who managed to square off the ghost trades on Shoonya found the reversal trade showing as a new transaction in their accounts at the end of the day.

Many are staring at a loss of anywhere between a few thousands and a few lakhs of rupees. Others saw their profits shrink because of the reversal trades. There were a few lucky ones like Jaipur-based Harsh Khandelwal who ended up with a small profit on positions he took on other platforms to offset the erroneous trades.

“Things were looking bad during the incident, but (the) final outcome turned out to be positive in my case,” he told Moneycontrol, adding that a few of his friends made bigger profits on similar trades.

On the face of it, this may appear to be yet another dispute between a broker and its clients. This is not the first instance of traders losing money because of the broker’s system faltering, neither will it be the last. But the episode needs to be viewed in light of the increasing concern among regulators worldwide due to the explosive growth in equity options trading over the last couple of years, particularly by novice retail investors. It is not just in India that options trading has taken off in a big way; the US market too is witnessing a similar trend.