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Notice

Self-Regulatory Organizations; the Options Clearing Corporation; Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change Relating to Adjustment Procedures for Security Futures

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Start Preamble August 5, 2002.

Pursuant to section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”),[1] notice is hereby given that on April 12, 2002, The Options Clearing Corporation (“OCC”) 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 primarily by OCC. The Start Printed Page 51920Commission is publishing this notice to solicit comments on the proposed rule change from interested parties.

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

The proposed rule change would amend OCC's adjustment procedures for stock futures to provide for adjusting stock futures contracts to compensate for special cash dividends and for rights distributions that expire in the money during the life of the futures contract.[2]

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

In its filing with the Commission, OCC included statements concerning the purpose of and basis for the proposed 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. OCC has prepared summaries, set forth in sections (A), (B), and (C) below, of the most significant aspects of these statements.[3]

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

The proposed rule change would amend OCC's adjustment procedures for stock futures to provide for adjusting stock futures contracts to compensate for special cash dividends and for rights distributions that expire in the money during the life of the futures contract. Security futures markets and certain firms interested in trading stock futures have expressed to OCC their belief that in order for stock futures to be successful they must replicate a position in the underlying stock as closely as possible. This means that, among other things, if an unanticipated corporate event (i.e., an event that cannot be discounted in futures prices) materially affects the value of an underlying stock, the terms of futures contracts on that stock should be adjusted to compensate for the event. There are two types of corporate events that cause particular concern from this perspective: (1) special (i.e., non-recurrent) cash dividends and (2) rights distributions. OCC does not, as a general rule, adjust options for cash dividends unless the amount of the dividend exceeds 10 per cent of the value of the underlying stock. If the holder of a call option wants to capture a dividend below that threshold, he can do so by exercising although at the cost of losing the remaining time value of his option. The holder of a long stock future would not have that ability. Recurrent cash dividends are not regarded as a problem because they can be anticipated and discounted in futures settlement prices. But there is no economical way for holders of long stock futures positions to ensure themselves the benefit of unscheduled dividends.

Similarly, if the issuer of an underlying stock declares a rights distribution and the rights will expire before the options do, the holder of a call option can capture the value of the rights by exercising the option before the rights expire. In contrast, the holder of a long stock future would have no way of obtaining the benefit of a rights distribution if the rights expire before the future does.

OCC's rules currently specify adjustment procedures for stock futures that generally parallel the adjustment rules for options. These procedures do not take into account the economic differences between options and futures discussed above. The security futures markets and firms interested in trading stock futures believe strongly that OCC's adjustment provisions should accommodate these differences.[4]

The proposed rule change is intended to address that concern. OCC's by-laws presently provide that, as a general rule, outstanding stock futures contracts will not be adjusted to compensate for ordinary cash dividends. A cash dividend is deemed “ordinary” if the amount does not exceed 10 percent of the value of the underlying stock on the declaration date. The proposed rule change would amend the by-laws to provide that in the case of stock futures, a cash dividend would be deemed “ordinary” if OCC determined that it was declared pursuant to a policy or practice of paying such dividends on a quarterly or other regular basis regardless of the size of the cash dividend.[5] This change recognizes that market pricing mechanisms can compensate for anticipated cash dividends. Because the market cannot anticipate and price for special dividends, the proposed rule change would provide for adjustments to outstanding stock futures when a company pays a special (i.e., non-recurring) cash dividend without regard to size. This would be done through a one-time adjustment in the futures settlement price that has the effect of causing the short to pass the value of the dividend to the long.

OCC's by-laws currently provide that outstanding stock futures will not be adjusted to compensate for rights distributions where the rights expire before the maturity date of the future. Under the proposed rule change, if rights would expire before they were to be delivered under a stock futures contract, then the futures would be adjusted through a one-time adjustment in the futures settlement price in an amount equal to the value of the rights as determined by OCC. OCC's good-faith determination of value would be conclusive and binding on investors.

Interpretation .11, which applies only to certain types of adjustments, is being deleted because OCC has concluded that it is likely to be more confusing than useful.

The proposed rule change is consistent with the requirements of section 17A of the Act [6] and the rules and regulations thereunder applicable to OCC because it promotes the prompt and accurate clearance and settlement of securities transactions, fosters cooperation and coordination with persons engaged in the clearance and settlement of securities transactions, removes impediments to and perfects the mechanism of a national system for the prompt and accurate clearance and settlement of securities transactions, and, in general protects investors and the public interest.

(B) Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Burden on Competition

OCC does not believe that the proposed rule change would impose any burden on competition.

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

Written comments relating to the proposed rule change have not yet been solicited or received. OCC will notify the Commission of any written comments received by OCC. Start Printed Page 51921

III. Date of Effectiveness of the Proposed Rule Change and Timing for Commission Action

Within thirty-five days of the date of publication of this notice in the Federal Register or within such longer period (i) as the Commission may designate up to ninety days of such date if it finds such longer period to be appropriate and publishes its reasons for so finding or (ii) as to which the self-regulatory organization consents, the Commission will:

(A) By order approve such proposed rule change or

(B) Institute proceedings to determine whether the proposed rule change should be disapproved.

IV. 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, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549. Copies of such filing also will be available for inspection and copying at the principal office of OCC. All submissions should refer to File No. SR-OCC-2002-06 and should be submitted by August 30, 2002.

Start Signature

For the Commission by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated authority.[7]

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

2.  Article I of OCC's By-Laws defines“stock future” as “a security future for which the underlying security is an equity security.”

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3.  The Commission has modified the text of the summaries prepared by OCC.

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4.  Although this would cause the adjustment procedures for stock futures to diverge from those applicable to equity options, the consensus among prospective markets and market participants appears to be that it is more important to avoid discontinuity between stock futures and the underlying stocks than between futures and options.

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5.  Quarterly stock dividends would also be deemed “ordinary” regardless of size. Stock futures contracts would ordinarily be adjusted for other stock distributions, even if recurrent (e.g., annual), to avoid creating an unnecessary discontinuity with equity options.

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[FR Doc. 02-20181 Filed 8-8-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P