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Self-Regulatory Organizations; The Options Clearing Corporation; Order Granting Accelerated Approval of a Proposed Rule Change Regarding Access to The Option Clearing Corporation's Information and Data Systems Via Electronic Means

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Start Preamble July 1, 2002.

On August 1, 2001, The Options Clearing Corporation (“OCC”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”) [1] a proposed rule change (File No. OCC-2001-09). On April 23, 2002, OCC filed an amendment to the proposed rule change. Notice of the proposal was published in the Federal Register on June 7, 2002.[2] No comment letters were received. For the reasons discussed below, the Commission is approving the proposed rule change on an accelerated basis.

I. Description

The proposed rule change amends OCC's rules regarding access to its information and data systems via electronic means. OCC rules currently support on-line data entry and data retrieval, but these provisions are limited solely to direct access via on-line terminals. OCC is in the process of developing a new clearance and settlement system to replace its existing system.[3] The new system will support internet access at a clearing member's election. The proposed rule change adds the definition of “electronic data entry,” which is broken down into “electronic data entry” and “electronic data retrieval,” to Rule 101 to provide a more flexible and broader description of the electronic means by which OCC and its clearing members can communicate.[4]

The proposed rule change also eliminates outdated provisions that require clearing members to send representatives to access lock boxes to obtain papers and documents distributed by OCC and clarifies the manner by which clearing members exchange information with OCC. Under the proposed rule change, Rules 205 (“Submission of Items to Corporation [OCC]”) and 206 (“Retrieval of Items from Corporation [OCC]”) require that a clearing member submit and retrieve instructions, notices, reports, data, and other items via electronic data entry or electronic data retrieval unless otherwise prescribed by OCC. Rules 205 and 206 also provide that such electronic transmissions constitute valid “writings” for purposes of applicable law. In the event unusual or unforeseen conditions prevent a clearing member from submitting or retrieving such items electronically, OCC has the discretion to designate alternative means or to extend any applicable cutoff times as may be deemed reasonable, practicable, and equitable under the circumstances. The proposed rule change amends Rule 208 (“Reports by the Corporation [OCC]”) to provide clearing members with the ability to notify OCC via facsimile or e-mail of any errors contained in reports made available by OCC.

Under the proposed rule change, a new Rule 212 (“Security Measures”) sets forth the obligations of clearing members to comply with security measures implemented by OCC, including access codes and authorization stamps. Under Rule 212, a clearing member would be bound by submissions made using a current access code or authorization stamp.

Finally, the proposed rule change makes conforming changes to Interpretations and Policies under Rules 801 (“Exercise of Options”) and 1606A (“Alternative Settlement Procedures”) to delete references to “on-line data entry” and to replace those references with the newly defined term “electronic data entry.” Interpretations and Policies .01 under Rule 801 also is amended to Start Printed Page 45167accurately reference Rule 205 instead of Rule 206.

OCC also submitted as a part of the proposed rule change the “Supplement to the Agreement for OCC Services for Internet Access” that will be entered into between OCC and its clearing members. OCC is developing a front-end portal called MyOCC that will provide a unified access point from which clearing members will be able to obtain information from various applications contained within MyOCC for which the clearing member is authorized to have access. Access to MyOCC will be available to clearing members through the internet, existing enhanced clearing member interface terminals, or dedicated leased lines. To the extent clearing members elect to access OCC's information and data systems through internet connections, the Supplement specifies requirements relating to access codes, registration, authorization, and security.

The Supplement is structured to fit within OCC's existing framework of the “Agreement for OCC Services.” [5] Provisions of the Supplement, which are generally self-explanatory, describe the respective responsibilities of the clearing member and OCC. Section 1 describes the scope of information and data systems that will be made available through the internet. Section 2 creates a requirement on the part of the clearing member to maintain a backup communication channel as a means to obtain access to OCC's information and data systems. Sections 3 and 4 set forth criteria relating to the right to use internet access. Section 5 allocates responsibility relating to the confidentiality and security of access codes. That section also requires the clearing member to provide information as may be necessary to register its authorized users for internet access and to maintain its own equipment. Section 5 also requires the clearing member if it is acting as a “managing clearing member” to represent and warrant that it is authorized to obtain internet access on behalf of the “managed clearing member.” Sections 6 through 9 set forth further rights and responsibilities of the parties including limitations on liability, indemnification, and termination provisions. Section 10 discloses that OCC may monitor the use of internet access to ensure compliance with the Supplement. Section 11 contains general terms including interpretation, severability, waiver, survival, and governing law.

II. Conclusion

In Section 17A(a)(1)(A) of the Act, Congress set forth its finding that new data processing and communications techniques create the opportunity for more efficient, effective, and safe procedures for clearance and settlement. Section 17A(b)(3)(A) and (b)(3)(F) require that a clearing agency be organized, have the capacity, and have rules designed to promote the prompt and accurate clearance and settlement of securities transactions. By amending its rules so that OCC and its clearing members can use a wider range of electronic means by which to communicate with each other, OCC is fulfilling this statutory obligation of providing for the prompt and accurate clearance and settlement of securities transactions. Therefore, the Commission finds that the proposal is consistent with the Act and in particular with Section 17A of the Act and the rules and regulations thereunder.

OCC has requested that the Commission find good cause for approving the proposed rule change prior to the thirtieth day after the date of publication of notice of filing. Internet access to clearing reports is a key feature of OCC's new clearing system, and OCC wants to implement this feature as soon as possible. The Commission finds good cause for approving the proposed rule change prior to the thirtieth day after the date of publication of notice of filing because such approval will allow OCC to implement internet access to reports consistent with its systems implementation schedule.

It is therefore ordered, pursuant to Section 19(b)(2) of the Act, that the proposed rule change (File No. SR-OCC-2001-09) be, and hereby is, approved.

Start Signature

For the Commission by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated authority.[6]

Jill M. Peterson,

Assistant Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

2.  Securities Exchange Act Release No. 46005 (May 30, 2002), 67 FR 39460.

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3.  As previously reported to the Commission, OCC is developing a new clearance and settlement system known as ENCORE to replace its existing system, INTRACS. OCC's implementation strategy is to replace INTRACS on a modular basis with new development code modules replacing targeted pieces of INTRACS, which pieces will then be “decommissioned.” Newly developed and installed code will interface with remaining portions of INTRACS until the old system is completely replaced.

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4.  Under the proposal, “electronic data entry” is defined as the transmission by a clearing member to OCC via electronic means of reports, notices, instructions, data, or other items. “Electronic data retrieval” is defined as the retrieval by a clearing member via electronic means of reports, notices, instructions, data, and other items made available by OCC.

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5.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 21015, 49 FR 23971 (June 4, 1984) [File No. SR-OCC-84-7] for the text of the Agreement for OCC Services.

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[FR Doc. 02-16984 Filed 7-5-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P