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Self-Regulatory Organizations; Order Granting Approval to a Proposed Rule Change by the American Stock Exchange LLC To Increase to Two Hundred and Fifty the Maximum Permissible Number of Equity and Index Option Contracts Executable Through AUTO-EX

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble March 22, 2002.

I. Introduction

On October 29, 2001, the American Stock Exchange LLC (“Amex” or “Exchange”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”), pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”) [1] and Rule 19b-4 thereunder,[2] a proposed rule change to increase to 250 contracts the maximum permissible number of equity and index option contracts in an order executable through its automatic execution system, AUTO-EX. On November 15, 2001, the proposed rule change was published for public comment in the Federal Register.[3] The Commission received no comments on the proposed rule change. This order approves the proposed rule change.

II. Description of the Proposed Rule Change

In 1985, the Exchange implemented its AUTO-EX system for options, which automatically executes public customer market and marketable limit orders in options at the best bid or offer displayed at the time the order is entered into the Amex Order File (“AOF”). There are, however, limitations on the number of option contracts that can be entered into or executed by these systems. AOF, which handles limit orders routed to the specialist's book as well as orders routed to AUTO-EX, was recently increased to allow for the entry of orders of up to 2,500 option contracts.[4] AUTO-EX, however, is only permitted to execute equity option orders and index option orders of up to 100 contracts.[5] Thus, market and marketable limit orders of more than 100 contracts are routed by AOF to the specialist's book.

The Exchange now proposes to increase to 250 contracts the maximum permissible number of equity and index option contracts in an order that can be executed through the AUTO-EX system. It is proposed that this increase to 250 contracts as the permissible order size for AUTO-EX be implemented on a case-by-case basis for an individual option class or for all option classes when two floor governors or senior floor officials deem such an increase appropriate. Currently, the Amex posts applicable quote size and AUTO-EX parameters on its web page. The Exchange represents that it has sufficient systems capacity necessary to accommodate implementation of the proposed increase.

The Exchange represents that AUTO-EX has been extremely successful in enhancing execution and operational efficiencies during emergency situations Start Printed Page 15263and during other, non-emergency situations for certain option classes. The Exchange believes that automatic executions of orders for up to 250 contracts will allow for the quick, efficient execution of public customer orders.

III. Discussion

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 and, in particular, the requirements of Section 6 of the Act.[6] Among other provisions, Section 6(b)(5) of the Act requires that the rules of an exchange be designed to foster cooperation and coordination with persons engaged in regulating, clearing, settling, processing information with respect to, and facilitating securities transactions; remove impediments to and perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system; and protect investors and the public interest.[7]

While increasing the maximum order size limit from 100 contracts to 250 contracts for automatic execution eligibility by itself does not raise concerns under the Act, the Commission believes that this increase raises collateral issues that the Amex will need to monitor and address. Increasing the maximum order size for particular option classes will make a larger number of option orders eligible for AUTO-EX. These orders may benefit from greater speed of execution, but at the same time create greater risks for market maker participants. Market makers signed on to the Amex's AUTO-EX system will be exposed to the financial risks associated with larger-sized orders being routed through the system for automatic execution at the displayed price. When the market for the underlying security changes rapidly, it may take a few moments for the related option's price to reflect that change. In the interim, customers may submit orders that try to capture the price differential between the underlying security and the option. The larger the orders accepted through AUTO-EX, the greater the risk market makers must be willing to accept. The Commission does not believe that, because Amex floor governors or senior floor officials determine to approve orders as large as 250 contracts as eligible for AUTO-EX, Amex floor governors or senior floor officials or Amex staff should disengage AUTO-EX more frequently by, for example, declaring an “unusual market condition.” [8] Disengaging AUTO-EX can negatively affect investors by making it slower and less efficient to execute their orders. It is the Commission's view that the Amex, when increasing the maximum size of orders that can be sent through AUTO-EX, should not disadvantage all customers—the vast majority of whom enter orders for less than 250 contracts—by making their automatic execution systems less reliable.

IV. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the Commission finds that the proposed rule change is consistent with the Act and the rules and regulations thereunder applicable to a national securities exchange, and, in particular, with Section 6(b)(5).[9]

It is therefore ordered, pursuant to Section 19(b)(2) of the Act,[10] that the proposed rule change (SR-Amex-2001-94) is approved.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated authority.[11]

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

3.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 45045 (November 7, 2001), 66 FR 57495.

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4.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 44065 (March 12, 2001), 66 FR 15513 (March 19, 2001).

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5.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 43887 (January 25, 2001), 66 FR 8831 (February 2, 2001) (approving amendment to Amex Rule 933).

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6.  The Commission has considered the proposed rule's impact on efficiency, competition and capital formation. 15 U.S.C. 78c(f).

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8.  The Amex has filed a proposed rule change (File No. SR-Amex-2001-74) with the Commission that would codify the Exchange's current practices and policies by specifying (i) the circumstances under which AUTO-EX can be disengaged or operated in a manner other than the normal manner set forth in Exchange rules and policies and (ii) the required documentation of the reasons for any action to disengage AUTO-EX to operate in a manner other than normal. The proposed rule change was filed pursuant to the Order Instituting Public Administrative Proceedings Pursuant to Section 19(h)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Making Findings and Imposing Remedial Sanctions, Securities Exchange Act Release No. 43268 (September 11, 2000) (File No. 3-10282) and is pending with the Commission.

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[FR Doc. 02-7611 Filed 3-28-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P