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Notice

Self-Regulatory Organizations; Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change and Amendment No. 1 Thereto by the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. Relating to Proposed Amendment to Rule 2260 To Expand the Definition of “Designated Investment Adviser” To Include State Registered Investment Advisers for the Purpose of Receiving and Voting Proxy Materials on Behalf of Beneficial Owners

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Start Preamble January 17, 2003.

Pursuant to section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”) [1] and rule 19b-4 thereunder,[2] notice is hereby given that on September 19, 2002, the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (“NASD”) 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 NASD. On January 8, 2003, the NASD submitted Amendment No. 1 to the proposed rule change.[3] The Commission is publishing this notice to solicit comments on the proposed rule change, as amended, from interested persons.

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

NASD is proposing to amend NASD Conduct rule 2260 to expand the definition of “designated investment adviser” to include all state registered investment advisers.

Below is the text of the proposed rule change. Proposed new language is in italics.

Rule 2260. Forwarding Proxy and Other Materials.

(a)-(e) No change.

(f) For purposes of this rule, the term “designated investment adviser” is a person registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 or registered as an investment adviser under the laws of a state,[4] who exercises investment discretion pursuant to an advisory contract for the beneficial owner and is designated in writing by the beneficial owner to receive proxy and related materials and vote the proxy, and to receive annual reports and other material sent to security holders.

(1) The written designation must be signed by the beneficial owner; be addressed to the member; and include the name of the designated investment adviser.

(2) Members who receive such a written designation from a beneficial owner must ensure that the designated investment adviser is registered with the Commission pursuant to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 or with a state as an investment adviser under the laws of such state,[5] and that the investment adviser is exercising investment discretion over the customer's account pursuant to an advisory contract to vote proxies and/or to receive proxy soliciting material, annual reports and other material. Members must keep records substantiating this information.

(3) Beneficial owners have an unqualified right at any time to rescind designation of the investment adviser to receive materials and to vote proxies. The rescission must be in writing and submitted to the member.

(g) No change.

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

In its filing with the Commission, NASD 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. NASD has prepared summaries, set forth in sections A, B, and C below, of the most significant aspects of such statements. Start Printed Page 3916

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

1. Purpose

Rule Modernization

In July 2001, NASD announced in Notice to Members 01-35 its intention to move forward with an initiative designed to ensure that NASD rules are as streamlined as possible and impose the least burden necessary to accomplish their objectives while achieving investor protection. In response to Notice to Members 01-35, some commenters asked NASD to review NASD Conduct rule 2260 to consider expanding the categories of persons to whom a member may forward proxy and other materials.

Based on the research and analysis of NASD Conduct rule 2260 conducted by NASD staff and the Economic Advisory Board (“EAB”), which was formed by NASD to assist with an economic analysis of certain NASD rules, the EAB made a formal recommendation to expand the definition of “designated investment adviser” in NASD Conduct rule 2260 to include all state registered investment advisers.

Proposed Expansion

Currently, NASD Conduct rule 2260 requires members to forward proxy material, annual reports, information statements and other material sent to security holders to the beneficial owner or the beneficial owner's “designated investment adviser.” [6] The rule defines a “designated investment adviser” as a person registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) who exercises investment discretion pursuant to an advisory contract for the beneficial owner and is designated in writing by the beneficial owner to receive proxy and related materials and vote the proxy, and to receive annual reports and other material sent to security holders.

NASD Conduct rule 2260 was amended in 1995 to include federally registered investment advisers.[7] However, as a result of the passage in 1996 of the National Securities Markets Improvement Act (“NSMIA”), certain state registered investment advisers need not be registered under the Advisers Act.[8] NASD Conduct rule 2260 was not updated to account for this change. As a result, under the current rule, beneficial owners cannot designate state registered investment advisers to receive proxy and other materials. The proposed rule change would expand the definition of “designated investment adviser” to include persons registered under the Advisers Act and persons registered by a state as an investment adviser.

NASD believes that the current exclusion of state registered investment advisers serves no valid investor protection purpose. NASD Conduct rule 2260 will continue to require that the beneficial owner execute a written designation addressed to the member that includes the name of the designated investment adviser. The beneficial owner will continue to have an unqualified right at anytime to rescind designation of the investment adviser to receive materials and to vote proxies. The recession must be in writing and submitted to the member.

The proposed rule change will continue to require that a member that receives a written designation from a beneficial owner must ensure that the beneficial owner's designated investment adviser is registered under the Advisers Act or, for state registered investment advisers, is registered as an investment adviser under the laws of the state. A member may verify registration of an investment adviser through the use of the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (“IARD”) system. Under the proposed rule change, members must continue to ensure that the designated investment adviser is exercising investment discretion pursuant to an advisory contract for the beneficial owner; and is designated in writing by the beneficial owner to receive and vote proxies for stock that is in the possession of the members. Members also must continue to keep records substantiating this information.

The Commission notes that the New York Stock Exchange, Inc. has filed a similar proposed rule change.[9]

2. Statutory Basis

NASD believes that the proposed rule change is consistent with the provisions of section 15A(b)(6) of the Act,[10] which requires, among other things, that NASD's rules must be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest. NASD believes that the proposed rule change to expand the definition of “designated investment adviser” in NASD Conduct rule 2260 is designed to accomplish these ends by updating NASD Conduct rule 2260 to be consistent with the goals of NSMIA and to address an inconsistency in the treatment of Federally-registered versus State-registered investment advisers that does not serve a valid investor protection purpose.

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

NASD does not believe that the proposed rule change will result in any burden on competition that is not necessary or appropriate in furtherance of the purposes of the Act, as amended.

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

Written comments were neither solicited nor received for this proposed rule change. In connection with its rule modernization initiative, NASD issued Notice to Members 02-10 (January 2002) that surveyed members on a broad range of topics that included subject matter related to this rule proposal. However, as NASD views the responses received as general survey material, it is not included in this filing.

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

Within 35 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 90 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: Start Printed Page 3917

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, as amended, 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 Room. Copies of such filing will also be available for inspection and copying at the principal office of NASD. All submissions should refer to File No. SR-NASD-2002-124 and should be submitted by February 18, 2003.

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

Start Signature

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

3.  See letter from Kosha K. Dalal, Assistant General Counsel, Regulatory Policy and Oversight, NASD, to Katherine England, Assistant Director, Division of Market Regulation, Commission, dated January 8, 2003 (“Amendment No. 1”). In Amendment No. 1, the NASD proposes to (1) revise the first footnote of proposed NASD rule 2260 to define the term “state” by reference to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, instead of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and (2) underline the text of two proposed footnotes in proposed NASD rule 2260 to indicate that they are proposed new text.

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4.  The term “state” as used herein shall have the meaning given to such term in section 202(a)(19) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and as such term may be amended from time to time therein.

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5.  Members may verify registration of an investment adviser through the use of the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (“IARD”) system.

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6.  In April 2002, the SEC approved a proposed rule change to NASD Conduct rule 2260 making its provisions applicable to non-municipal debt securities. The rule change became effective on July 9, 2002. See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 45736 (April 11, 2002), 67 FR 19291 (April 18, 2002) (SR-NASD-2002-11).

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7.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 35681 (May 5, 1995), 60 FR 25749 (May 15, 1995) (SR-NASD-95-06).

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8.  National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-290, 110 Stat. 3416 (1996). The Commission notes that title III of NSMIA (a/k/a The Investment Advisers Supervision Coordination Act) provides for Commission regulation of advisers with $25 million or more of assets under management, and state regulation of advisers with less than $25 million of assets under management. The Commission also notes that new section 203A(a) of the Advisers Act provides that an investment adviser that is regulated or required to be regulated as an investment adviser in the state in which it maintains its principal office and place of business is prohibited from registering with the Commission unless the adviser:

(i) Has assets under management of not less than $25 million (or such higher amount as the Commission may, by rule, deem appropriate), or

(ii) Is an advisor to an investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940. 15 U.S.C. 80b-3a.

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9.  See Exchange Act Release No. 47215 (January 21, 2003).

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[FR Doc. 03-1755 Filed 1-24-03; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P