What Is an Aged Fail?

What Is an Aged Fail?

3 Min.


When broker-dealers engage in transactions, a scenario may arise wherein the settlement remains pending beyond the initial 30 days from the trade date. In essence, settlement is the pivotal moment ensuring the fulfillment of agreed-upon terms for both parties involved. Regrettably, unresolved trades, commonly called "aged fails," emerge when these settlement requirements remain unmet even after 30 days. The critical date for successful settlement is the designated settlement date. Notably, the repercussions of trade failures can extend beyond individual instances, potentially initiating a chain reaction of subsequent unresolved transactions.

Deciphering Aged Fails in Financial Markets

In the financial markets, if a transaction isn't completed within 30 days after the trade date, it's known as an "aged fail" in terms of settlement. The settlement timeline varies across markets—stocks necessitate a T+2 period, options settle in T+1, certain bonds settle within two days, and government bonds conclude on the next day (T+1). Swift settlement characterizes certificates of deposit (CDs) and commercial paper. At the same time, spot foreign exchange (forex) transactions commonly wrap up in T+2, although retail traders frequently opt for daily rollovers to sidestep settlement.

Aged fails typically originate from a seller's inability to deliver securities to their broker, obstructing the broker from passing on the securities to the buyer. This dissonance often prompts adjustments within the recipient's records, accounting for the absent asset. A scenario unfolds as either a "short fail" if the seller neglects to deliver securities or a "long fail" if the buyer defaults on payment.

Parties entangled in delinquent settlements (failing to transfer either cash or securities) become susceptible to specific charges instituted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a safeguard against counterparty risk. Abiding by SEC Rule 15c3-1, colloquially known as the uniform net capital rule, dealers must maintain supplementary capital for fails-to-deliver persisting beyond five business days, and fails-to-receive extending over thirty calendar days. In essence, this rule mandates brokers to have adequate liquidity to underwrite a portion of their total commitments, factoring in potential transactional shortcomings.

Tracking Aged Fails and Unsuccessful Transactions: Utilizing SEC and DTCC Data

Effective surveillance of trades marked by delivery failures finds a valuable resource in SEC data. Fails-to-Deliver information from the SEC furnishes essential trade details, including trade date, CUSIP, ticker symbol, the volume of unresolved shares, entity name, and preceding close price. This data, released bi-monthly, is accompanied by cumulative figures for ongoing delivery shortfalls.

Expanding our purview beyond SEC, the DTCC offers comprehensive insights into US Treasury and Agency trade lapses. The interconnected nature of trade failures is illustrated through a cascading effect. To elucidate, imagine a security buyer employing acquired assets for a subsequent transaction. Should the primary trade falter, the buyer's collateral for the ensuing transaction evaporates, leading to a chain reaction of disappointments.


Aged fails represent delayed settlements beyond 30 days from the trade date, impacting financial transactions. The broad spectrum of settlement timelines across markets underlines the complexities faced. These failures, often stemming from sellers' inability to deliver securities, necessitate adjustments and attract regulatory attention. Rigorous SEC and DTCC data analysis proves vital in monitoring these issues, offering insights into the dynamics of trade lapses. Ultimately, aged fails reveal a cascading effect, disrupting subsequent transactions and emphasizing the intricate nature of the financial ecosystem.

Aged Fail
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