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Notice

Self-Regulatory Organizations; Notice of Filing and Order Granting Accelerated Approval to Proposed Rule Change by the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Incorporated Increasing Position and Exercise Limits on QQQ Options

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Start Preamble January 18, 2002.

Pursuant to section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange act of 1934,[1] and rule 19b-4 thereunder,[2] notice is hereby given that on August 9, 2001, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Incorporated (“CBOE” or “Exchange”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) the proposed rule change as described in Items I, II and III below, which Items have been prepared by the CBOE. On December 19, 2001, the CBOE filed Amendment No. 1 to the proposed rule change,[3] and on January 14, 2002, the CBOE filed Amendment No. 2 to the proposed rule change.[4]

The Commission is publishing this notice to solicit comments on the proposed rule change, as amended, from interested persons. For the reasons discussed below, the Commission is granting accelerated approval of the proposed rule change, as amended.

I. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Terms of Substance of the Proposed Rule Change

The Exchange hereby proposes to increase position and exercise limits for Nasdaq-100 Index Tracking StockSM (“QQQ”) options. The Exchange represents that its reporting requirements for QQQ options will serve to identify options holdings and information concerning the hedging of these positions.

The text of the proposed rule change is available at the Office of the Secretary, CBOE and at the Commission.

II. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

In its filing with the Commission, the CBOE included statements concerning the purpose of and basis for the Start Printed Page 3758proposed rule change and discussed any comments it received on the proposed rule change. The text of these statements may be examined at the places specified in Item IV below. The CBOE has prepared summaries, set forth in sections A, B and C below, of the most significant aspects of such statements.

A. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, Proposed Rule Change

1. Purpose

The Commission has stated that position and exercise limits “must not be established at levels that are so low as to discourage participation in the options market by institutions and other investors with substantial hedging needs or to prevent specialists and market-makers from adequately meeting their obligations to maintain a fair and orderly market.” [5]

The Exchange represents that the QQQs are by far the most actively-traded options product. Average daily trading volumes for the QQQs and QQQ options from January 1, 2001 to April 30, 2001 were 70.5 million shares and 189,046 contracts, respectively. The current standard position and exercise limits for QQQ options were recently adjusted from 75,000 contracts to 150,000 contracts, due to a 2-for-1 split in the value of the underlying QQQ. In January 2002, however, the current limits are scheduled to revert to 75,000 contracts.

Based on the large trading volume in both the underlying QQQ and QQQ options, the Exchange believes that position and exercise limits of the QQQ option are too restrictive and may adversely affect the Exchange's ability to provide liquidity in this popular product. In addition, the CBOE believes that current base limits for the QQQ options may not be adequate in many instances for the hedging needs of certain institutions which engage in trading strategies differing from those covered under the equity hedge exemption policy in Interpretation .04 to Exchange Rule 4.11 (e.g., delta hedges; OTC vs. listed hedges).

To accommodate the need for continued liquidity in this product, the Exchange proposes to increase position and exercise limits for QQQ options to 300,000 contracts. The Exchange will require both that member organizations report all QQQ options positions exceeding 200 contracts pursuant to existing Exchange Rule 4.13(a), and that they report information on the hedging of all positions in excess of 10,000 contracts on the same side of the market, pursuant to an amended Exchange Rule 4.13(b). The Exchange believes that increasing position limits for this product will lead to a more liquid and competitive market environment for QQQ options that will benefit customers interested in the product.

Reporting Requirements

Consistent with Exchange Rule 4.13(b), the Exchange will require that each member or member organization that maintains a position on the same side of the market in excess of 10,000 contracts in the QQQ option, for its own account or for the account of a customer report certain information. This data would include, but would not be limited to, the option position, whether such position is hedged and if so, a description of the hedge and if applicable, the collateral used to carry the position. Exchange market-makers (including DPMs) would continue to be exempt from this reporting requirement as market-maker information can be accessed through the Exchange's market surveillance systems. Once the 10,000 contract reporting threshold is attained, member or member organizations must similarly report each increase of 2,500 contracts on the same side of the market for customer accounts and each increase of 5,000 contracts on the same side of the market for proprietary accounts. In addition, the general reporting requirement for customer accounts that maintain a position in excess of 200 contracts will remain at this level for QQQ options.[6] Lastly, it is important to note that the 10,000 contract reporting requirement is above and beyond what is currently required in the OTC market. NASD member firms are only required to report options positions in excess of 200 contracts and are not required to report any related hedging information.

2. Statutory Basis

The Exchange believes that the proposed rule change is consistent with section 6(b) of the Act [7] in general and furthers the objectives of Section 6(b)(5) [8] in particular in that it is designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, to foster cooperation and coordination with persons engaged in facilitating transactions in securities, to remove impediments to and perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system, to protect investors and the public interest and is not designed to permit unfair discrimination between customers, issuers, brokers, or dealers.

B. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Burden on Competition

CBOE does not believe that the proposed rule change will impose any burden on competition not necessary or appropriate in furtherance of purposes of the Act.

C. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Comments on the Proposed Rule Change Received From Members, Participants or Others

No written comments were solicited or received with respect to the proposed rule change.

III. Solicitation of Comments

Interested persons are invited to submit written data, views and arguments concerning the foregoing, including whether the proposed rule change is consistent with the Act. Persons making written submissions should file six copies thereof with the Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549 -0609. Copies of the submission, all subsequent amendments, all written statements with respect to the proposed rule change that are filed with the Commission, and all written communications relating to the proposed rule change between the Commission and any person, other than those that may be withheld from the public in accordance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552, will be available for inspection and copying in the Commission's Public Reference Section. Copies of such filing will also be available for inspection and copying at the office of the CBOE. All submissions should refer File No. SR-CBOE-2001-44 and should be submitted by February 15, 2002.

IV. Commission Findings and Order Granting Accelerated Approval of Proposed Rule Change

After careful review, the Commission finds that the proposed rule change is consistent with the requirements of the Act and the rules and regulations thereunder applicable to a national securities exchange. In particular, the Commission believes the proposal is consistent with the requirements of section 6(b)(5) of the Act [9] in that it is Start Printed Page 3759designed to promote just and equitable principles of trades, to foster cooperation and coordination with persons engaged in facilitating transactions in securities, and to remove impediments to and perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system.

Position and exercise limits serve as a regulatory tool designed to address potential manipulative schemes and adverse market impact surrounding the use of options. In the past, the Commission has stated that:

Since the inception of standardized options trading, the options exchanges have had rules imposing limits on the aggregate number of options contracts that a member or customer could hold or exercise. These rules are intended to prevent the establishment of options positions that can be used or might create incentives to manipulate or disrupt the underlying market so as to benefit the options position. In particular, position and exercise limits are designed to minimize the potential for mini-manipulations and for corners or squeezes of the underlying market. In addition such limits serve to reduce the possibility for disruption of the options market itself, especially in illiquid options classes.[10]

In general, the Commission has taken a gradual, evolutionary approach toward expansion of the position and exercise limits. The Commission has been careful to balance two competing concerns when considering the appropriate level at which to set position and exercise limits. The Commission has recognized that the limits must be sufficient to prevent investors from disrupting the market in the component securities comprising the indexes. At the same time, the Commission has determined that limits must not be established at levels that are so low as to discourage participation in the options market by institutions and other investors with substantial hedging needs or to prevent specialists and market makers from adequately meeting their obligations to maintain a fair and orderly market.[11]

The Commission has carefully considered the CBOE's proposal to increase position and exercise limits for QQQ options. At the outset, the Commission notes that it still believes the fundamental purpose of position and exercise limits are being served by their existence. However, given the surveillance capabilities of the Exchange and the depth and liquidity in both the QQQ options and the underlying cash market in QQQs, the Commission believes it is permissible to significantly raise position limits for QQQ options without risk of disruption to the options or underlying cash markets. Specially, the Commission believes that it is appropriate to increase position and exercise limits from 75,000 contracts to 300,000 contracts for QQQ options for several reasons.

First, the Commission believes that the structure of the QQQ options and the considerable liquidity of both the underlying cash and options market for QQQ options lessen the opportunity for manipulation of this product and disruption in the underlying market that a lower position limit may protect against. In this regard, the CBOE notes that the average daily trading volumes for the QQQs and QQQ options from January 1, 2001 to April 30, 2001 were 70.5 million shares and 189,046 contracts, respectively. CBOE has also noted that the QQQ option is the most actively-traded option in the U.S. markets, and the underlying QQQ is the most actively-traded equity security in the U.S. markets.[12] These factors provide support for higher limits for the QQQ options and differentiate them from other equity options.

Second, the Commission notes that current margin and risk-based haircut methodologies serve to limit the size of positions maintained by any one account by increasing the margins and/or capital that a member must maintain for a large position held by itself or by its customer. Further, the CBOE, under CBOE Rules 4.13 and 12.10, may impose additional margin on options positions if it determines that this is warranted. The Commission believes that these financial requirements should help to address concerns that a member or its customer may try to maintain an inordinately large unhedged position in QQQ options and will help to reduce risks if such a position is established.

Finally, the Commission believes that the reporting requirements imposed by the Exchange under CBOE Rule 4.13, which will continue to require that each member or member organization that maintains a position on the same side of the market in excess of 10,000 contracts in the QQQ option, for its own account or for the account of a customer report certain information, will help protect against potential manipulation. The Exchange also requires members to report subsequent incremental increases in positions, thus assuring that positions are regularly monitored by the Exchange. In particular, information that must be reported includes, among other things, whether or not the options position is hedged, and if so, a description of the hedge. This information should help the CBOE to monitor accounts and determine whether it is necessary to impose additional margin for under-hedged positions, as provided under its rules.

In summary, the financial and reporting requirements noted above should allow the Exchange to detect and deter trading abuses arising from the increased position and exercise limits, and will also allow the Exchange to monitor large positions in order to identify instances of potential risk and to assess additional margin and/or capital charges, if deemed necessary. These requirements, coupled with the special trading characteristics of the QQQ options and the underlying QQQ noted above, warrant approval of the Exchange's proposal.[13]

The Commission finds good cause for approving the proposed rule change prior to the thirtieth day after the date of publication of the notice of filing thereof in the Federal Register. The Commission notes that under the current CBOE rules, the position and exercise limits applicable to QQQ options is 75,000 contracts. However, due to a 50% reduction in the value of the underlying QQQ on March 20, 2000, the limit was adjusted to 150,000 contracts. The position and exercise limits are scheduled to revert back to 75,000 contracts after the January options expiration occurring on January 18, 2002. The Exchange has represented to the Commission that limits of 75,000 contracts for the QQQ options could substantially reduce depth and liquidity in the QQQ market. The Commission believes for the reasons noted above that it is appropriate to approve this proposed rule change increasing the position and exercise limits to 300,000 contracts on January 18, 2002. Accordingly, the Commission finds that there is good cause, consistent with section 6(b)(5) of the Act,[14] to approve the proposal on an accelerated basis.

It is therefore ordered, pursuant to Section 19(b)(2) of the Act,[15] that the proposed rule change (SR-CBOE-2001-Start Printed Page 376044) is hereby approved on an accelerated basis.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated authority.[16]

J. Lynn Taylor,

Assistant Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

3.  Amendment No. 1 supercedes and replaces the original 19b-4 filing in its entirety.

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4.  Amendment No. 2 removes language added to Rule 4.13(b) by the proposed rule change that increased the reporting requirement level specified in Rule 4.13 for QQQ options.

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5.  See H.R. Rep. No. IFC-3, 96th Cong., 1st Sess. At 189-91 (Comm. Print 1978).

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6.  See Exchange Rule 4.13(a).

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9.  15 U.S.C. 78f(b)(5). In approving this rule change, the Commission notes that it has considered the proposal's impact on efficiency, competition, and capital formation, consistent with Section 3 of the Act. Id. at 78c(f).

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10.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 39489 (December 24, 1997), 63 FR 276 (January 5, 1998).

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12.  As noted by the CBOE, the QQQ is designed to closely track the performance of the Nasdaq-100 Index. As of November 30, 2001, the market capitalization of the securities underlying the Nasdaq-100 Index was $1.875 trillion.

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13.  Of course, the Commission expects that CBOE will take prompt action, including timely communicational with the Commission and other marketplace self-regulatory organizations responsible for oversight of trading in the underlying QQQ, should any unanticipated adverse market effects develop due to the increased limits.

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[FR Doc. 02-1906 Filed 1-24-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-M