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Self-Regulatory Organizations; Order Granting Approval to Proposed Rule Change by the American Stock Exchange LLC To Relax Certain Restrictions on Specialist Affiliates

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble July 16, 2002.

I. Introduction

On February 14, 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 proposal to provide an exemption to the general rule against a specialist affiliate serving as an officer or director of a company for which that specialist is registered. On March 14, 2001, the Commission published the proposed rule change in the Federal Register.[3] The Commission received no comments on the proposal. This order approves the proposed rule change.

II. Description of the Proposal

Amex and the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) each have a general rule that prohibits a director of an issuer from being an approved person of a member organization that specializes in that issuer's securities.[4] The exchanges differ, however, in that the NYSE's rules allow for exemptions to this general prohibition,[5] but Amex's rules do not. Amex has stated that, since investment banks frequently have personnel serving as directors of private and public companies, the absence of an exemption from Amex Rules 186(a) and 950(i) may create a disincentive for investment banks to establish or maintain a specialist affiliate on the Exchange. Amex, accordingly, has proposed to provide an exemption from Amex Rules 186(a) and 950(i) for specialist affiliates that establish Exchange-approved information barriers.

The Exchange also has proposed a technical correction to Amex Rule 193 to clarify that one of the exemptions provided for by that rule applies to options specialists as well as equity specialists. Currently, Amex Rule 193(c) explicitly provides an exemption to the restrictions in Amex Rule 170 only for approved persons of equity specialists, although the rule implicitly extends this exemption to options specialists.[6] The proposed rule change would explicitly do so.

III. Discussion

The Commission finds that the proposed rule change is consistent with Start Printed Page 48231the Act and the rules and regulations thereunder applicable to a national securities exchange.[7] In particular, the Commission finds that the proposal is consistent with section 6(b)(5) of the Act [8] which requires, among other things, that the rules of an exchange be designed to promote just and equitable principles of trade; to facilitate transactions in securities; to remove impediments to and perfect the mechanisms of a free and open market and a national market system; and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest.

In 1986, the Commission approved Amex Rule 193 and NYSE Rule 98, which allow an approved person of a specialist organization to be exempt from a number of exchange restrictions, provided there are exchange-approved informational firewalls between that person and the affiliated specialist.[9] In 1993, the Commission approved an additional exemption under NYSE Rule 98 which allows an approved person of a specialist organization to serve as an officer or director of an issuer in whose securities the specialist is registered, provided the firewall requirement is met.[10] Amex now proposes to adopt the same exemption for which the NYSE received approval in 1993.

In its 1993 approval order, the Commission stated that the exemption which allows an approved person to serve as a director or officer is “appropriate * * * so as not to place insurmountable restrictions on full-service member organizations.”[11] The Commission continues to believe that such an exemption is appropriate and consistent with the requirements of the Act. The informational firewalls, which must be approved by the Exchange, are a reasonable means of ensuring that approved persons do not misuse their informational advantage and, thus, help protect investors and the public interest.[12]

IV. Conclusion

It is therefore ordered, pursuant to section 19(b)(2) of the Act,[13] that the proposed rule change (SR-Amex-2001-08) is approved.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated authority.[14]

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

3.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 44048 (March 7, 2001), 66 FR 14945.

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4.  See NYSE Rule 460(b) (“No member or his member organization or any other member, allied member, or approved person in such member organization or officer or employee of the member organization shall be a director of a company if such member specializes in the stock of that company”); Amex Rule 186(a) (“No specialist or any member in his member organization, officer, employee or approved person therein shall be an officer or director of a corporation which has a security admitted to trading on the Exchange in which security the specialist is registered”). See also Amex Rule 950(i) (extending the provisions of Amex Rule 186 to the trading of option contracts).

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5.  See NYSE Rule 98, Guidelines for Approved Persons Associated with a Specialist's Member Organization.

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6.  Amex Rule 170(e) provides that no approved person who is affiliated with a specialist may purchase or sell any security in which such specialist is registered for any account in which that the approved person has a direct or indirect interest. Amex Rule 950(n) states that Amex Rule 170 (and Commentaries .03 and .04 thereto) apply to option transactions on the Exchange.

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7.  In approving the proposed rule change, the Commission notes that it has considered the proposed rule's impact on efficiency, competition, and capital formation. See 15 U.S.C. 78c(f).

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9.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 23768 (November 3, 1986), 51 FR 41183 (November 13, 1986).

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10.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 33080 (October 20, 1993), 58 FR 57654 (October 26, 1993).

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11.  :58 FR at 57655.

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12.  Amex has provided the Commission with a letter describing the means by which it would surveil these informational firewalls. See Letter from Bill Floyd-Jones, Assistant General Counsel, Amex, to Alton Harvey, Office Head, Office of Market Watch, Commission, dated January 14, 2002. The Commission's Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations intends to review these surveillance procedures during its next inspection of Amex.

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[FR Doc. 02-18491 Filed 7-22-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P