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Self-Regulatory Organizations; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change by the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc., To Extend the Pilot for the Operation of the Short Sale Rule in a Decimals Environment

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Start Preamble Start Printed Page 6981 February 4, 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 January 31, 2003, the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (“NASD” or “Association”), through its subsidiary, the Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc. (“Nasdaq”), filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) the proposed rule change as described in Items I and II below, which Items have been prepared by Nasdaq. Nasdaq filed the proposal pursuant to Section 19(b)(3)(A) of the Act,[3] and Rule 19b-4(f)(6)[4] thereunder, which renders the proposal effective upon filing with the Commission. The Commission is publishing this notice to solicit comments on the proposed rule change from interested persons.

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

Nasdaq proposes to extend through May 31, 2003, the penny ($0.01) legal short sale standard contained in NASD Interpretative Material 3350 (“IM-3350”). Without such an extension this standard would terminate on January 31, 2003. Nasdaq does not propose to make any substantive changes to the pilot; the only change is an extension of the pilot's expiration date through May 31, 2003. Nasdaq requests that the Commission waive both the 5-day notice and 30-day operative requirements contained in Rule 19b-4(f)(6)(iii)[5] of the Act. If such waivers are granted by the Commission, Nasdaq will implement this rule change immediately.

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

In its filing with the Commission, Nasdaq included statements concerning the purpose of and basis for its proposal and discussed any comments it received regarding the proposal. The text of these statements may be examined at the places specified in Item IV below. Nasdaq has prepared summaries, set forth in Sections A, B and C below, of the most significant aspects of such statements.

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

1. Purpose

On March 2, 2001, the Commission approved, on a one-year pilot basis ending March 1, 2002,[6] Nasdaq's proposal to establish a $0.01 above the bid standard for legal short sales in Nasdaq National Market securities as part of the Decimals Implementation Plan for the Equities and Options Markets. The pilot program has been continuously extended since that date and is currently set to expire on January 31, 2003.[7] Nasdaq now proposes to extend, through May 31, 2003, that pilot program. Extension until May 31st, will allow Nasdaq and the Commission to continue to evaluate the impact of the penny short sale pilot and thereafter take action on Nasdaq's separate pending proposal to make the penny short sale standard permanent.[8] If approved, Nasdaq would continue during the pilot period to require NASD members seeking to effect “legal” short sales when the current best (inside) bid displayed by Nasdaq is lower than the previous bid, to execute those short sales at a price that is at least $0.01 above the current inside bid in that security. Nasdaq believes that continuation of this pilot standard appropriately takes into account the important investor protections provided by the short sale rule and the ongoing relationship of the valid short sale price amount to the minimum quotation increment of the Nasdaq market (currently also $0.01).

2. Statutory Basis

Nasdaq believes that the proposed rule change is consistent with the provisions of Section 15A(b)(6) of the Act [9] in that it is designed to: (1) Promote just and equitable principles of trade; (2) foster cooperation and coordination with persons engaged in regulating, clearing, settling, processing information with respect to and facilitating transactions in securities; (3) perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system; and (4) protect investors and the public interest.

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

Nasdaq does not believe that the proposed rule change will impose any inappropriate burden on competition.

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.

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

Because the foregoing proposed rule change does not:

(i) Significantly affect the protection of investors or the public interest; (ii) impose any significant burden on competition; and (iii) become operative for 30 days from the date on which it was filed, or such shorter time as the Commission may designate if consistent with the protection of investors and the public interest, it has become effective pursuant to Section 19(b)(3)(A) of the Act [10] and Rule 19b-4(f)(6) thereunder.[11] At any time within 60 days of the filing of the proposed rule change, the Commission may summarily abrogate such rule change if it appears to the Commission that such action is necessary or appropriate in the public interest, for the protection of investors, or otherwise in furtherance of the purposes of the Act.

Nasdaq has requested that the Commission waive both the 5-day notice and the 30-day operative delay. The Commission believes waiving the 5-day notice and 30-day operative delay is consistent with the protection of investors and the public interest. Acceleration of the operative date will allow the pilot to continue uninterrupted through May 31, 2003, and will provide Nasdaq and the Commission with an opportunity to evaluate the impact of the penny short sale pilot. For these reasons, the Commission designates the proposal to Start Printed Page 6982be effective and operative upon filing with the Commission.[12]

IV. Solicitation of Comments

Interested persons are invited to submit written data, views, and arguments concerning the foregoing, including whether the proposal 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 Nasdaq. All submissions should refer to file number SR-NASD-2003-11 and should be submitted by March 4, 2003.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated authority.[13]

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble


5.  17 CFR 240.19b-4(f)(6)(iii).

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6.  Securities Exchange Act Release No. 44030 (March 2, 2001), 66 FR 14235 (March 9, 2001).

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7.  Securities Exchange Act Release No. 46585 (October 2, 2002), 67 FR 63182 (October 10, 2002).

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8.  See SR-NASD 2002-09.

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12.  For purposes only of accelerating the operative date of this proposal, 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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[FR Doc. 03-3321 Filed 2-10-03; 8:45 am]