Payment for Order Flow

40 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2001

See all articles by Christine A. Parlour

Christine A. Parlour

University of California, Berkeley - Finance Group

Uday Rajan

Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Date Written: May 22, 2001


We develop a dynamic model of price competition in broker and dealer markets. Competing market makers quote bid-ask spreads, and competing brokers choose commissions to be paid by an investor. Investors, who submit either market or limit orders, choose a broker to minimize total transaction costs. We model this as an infinitely-repeated game. With no payment for order flow, there exist equilibria in which brokers and market makers earn positive profits. There is also an equilibrium in which they earn zero profits. With payment for order flow, spreads widen to more than compensate for this payment. Hence, while positive profit equilibria continue to exist, there is no equilibrium in which market makers earn zero profits. While brokerage commissions for market orders can fall, the total transactions cost to submitting a market order remains positive. Hence, payment for order flow redistributes welfare from traders who demand liquidity to those who supply it. We determine the level of payment for order flow in equilibrium, and provide some comparative statics.

Keywords: Market microstructure, competition in dealer markets

JEL Classification: D4, G28, L1, C7

Suggested Citation

Parlour, Christine A. and Rajan, Uday, Payment for Order Flow (May 22, 2001). Available at SSRN: or

Christine A. Parlour (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Finance Group ( email )

Haas School of Business
545 Student Services Building
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-643-9391 (Phone)

Uday Rajan

Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-764-2310 (Phone)


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