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Contingent Fees in Order Flow Auctions

by   Max Resnick, et al.

Many early order flow auction designs handle the payment for orders when they execute on the chain rather than when they are won in the auction. Payments in these auctions only take place when the orders are executed, creating a free option for whoever wins the order. Bids in these auctions set the strike price of this option rather than the option premium. This paper develops a simple model of an order flow auction and compares contingent fees with upfront payments as well as mixtures of the two. Results suggest that auctions with a greater share of the payment contingent on execution have lower execution probability, lower revenue, and increased effective spreads in equilibrium. A Reputation system can act as a negative contingent fee, partially mitigating the downsides; however, unless the system is calibrated perfectly, some of the undesirable qualities of the contingent fees remain. Results suggest that designers of order flow auctions should avoid contingent fees whenever possible.


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