What Is a Direct Bidder?

What Is a Direct Bidder?

3 Min.


A direct bidder is a person or organization that buys Treasury securities at auction for their own account rather than on behalf of someone else. Direct bidders can include primary dealers, non-primary dealers, hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds, insurers, banks, governments, and individuals. They can either be classified as competitive bidders, who have to specify the desired return, or noncompetitive bidders, who don't have to indicate the desired return. Noncompetitive bidders can bid between $100 and $5 million in increments of $100. The Treasury Automated Auction Processing System (TAAPS), Treasury Direct, and Legacy Treasury Direct are the online systems used for bidding.

Deciphering Direct Bidders in Auctions

Direct bidders, encompassing primary dealers, non-primary dealers, hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds, insurers, banks, governments, and individuals, represent those who purchase assets for their own benefit rather than on behalf of others.

Various U.S. Treasury financial instruments, such as bills, notes, bonds, floating-rate notes (FRNs), and Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS), are vended via public auctions. Direct bidding, both competitively and noncompetitively, has been authorized by the Treasury Department since the inception of auctions.

Exploring Bidding Process

In the auction bidding process, direct bidders can opt for either competitive or noncompetitive bids. Competitive bids involve specifying a desired return, and the number of securities acquired depends on the highest competitive discount rate. Noncompetitive bids, limited to $5 million or less, do not require specifying a return. The Treasury accepts all noncompetitive bids before moving on to competitive bids, prioritized by increasing yield.

Bidders utilize designated systems for placing their bids. Institutional bidders utilize the Treasury Automated Auction Processing System to submit both competitive and noncompetitive bids. Real bidders, primarily individuals, can use Treasury Direct and Legacy Treasury Direct, which exclusively accept noncompetitive bids.

Following the conclusion of an auction, the Treasury Department discloses the dollar value of securities acquired by primary dealers, other direct bidders, and indirect bidders, specifying the amounts obtained by each group. Successful bidders are awarded securities at the same price, corresponding to the highest rate, yield, or discount margin among accepted competitive bids. Primary dealers purchase Treasury debt directly and then resell it to clients at predetermined prices. Over the years, the dominance of primary dealers in auction participation has steadily diminished.

Direct Bidder Requirements and Limits

To participate in a Treasury auction, entities or individuals must submit a tender with their preferred security bid. Participants can bid either noncompetitively or competitively within the same auction. Noncompetitive bids are accepted in the range of $100 to $5 million, incrementing by $100. Competitive bidders can submit multiple competitive bids, but the Treasury prohibits bids exceeding 35% of the offering amount.

The Treasury has allowed direct bidding since the inception of security auctions. Any entity or individual can place direct bids if they have fulfilled system access and payment arrangements. Institutions typically settle payments by debiting their Federal Reserve account or through a clearing bank when there's no Federal Reserve account. Retail bidders have payments debited from their bank accounts.

When organizations transition from indirect to direct bidding, it becomes challenging for other primary dealers to gauge interest levels in securities auctions. In 2017, primary dealer banks faced allegations of conspiring to manipulate Treasury auctions by sharing customer order information in a lawsuit.


Direct bidders include various entities and individuals who buy Treasury securities for their own benefit through either competitive or noncompetitive bids. The auction process involves revealing the value of securities acquired by different bidder groups. Primary dealers' influence in auctions has diminished over time. The flexibility and transparency of the direct bidding system are fundamental features in Treasury auctions.

Direct Bidder
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