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Self-Regulatory Organizations; Order Approving Proposed Rule Change by the International Securities Exchange LLC Relating to a Pilot Program for Quotation Spreads

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble March 19, 2003.

I. Introduction

On May 25, 2001, the International Securities Exchange LLC (“ISE” or “Exchange”), filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”), pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”),[1] and Rule 19b-4 thereunder,[2] a proposed rule change to amend Supplementary Material .01 to ISE Rule 803, “Obligations of Market Makers,” to establish a six-month pilot program in which the allowable quotation spread for options on up to 50 underlying securities (the “Pilot Options”) will be $5, regardless of the price of the bid.[3]

The proposed rule change was published for comment in the Federal Register on November 27, 2002.[4] No comments were received regarding the proposal. This order approves the proposed rule change.

II. Description

Currently, the ISE's rules contain maximum quotation spread requirements that generally vary from $.25 to $1, depending on the price of the option. Specifically, ISE Rule 803(b)(4) requires options market makers to bid and offer so as to create differences of no more than $.25 between the bid and offer for each options contract for which the bid is less than $2; no more than $.40 where the bid is at least $2 but does not exceed $5; no more than $.50 where the bid is more than $5 but does not exceed $10; no more than $.80 where the bid is more than $10 but does not exceed $20; and no more than $1 where the bid is $20 or greater. The bid/offer differentials do not apply to in-the-money options series when the spread in the underlying securities market is wider than the differentials set forth above. For such series, ISE Rule 803(b)(4) permits the bid/ask differential to be as wide as the quotation on the primary market of the underlying security.

The ISE proposes to expand the allowable spread to $5 in up to 50 Pilot Options (up to five per each of the ISE's ten options bins). The ISE represents that it will monitor the quotation quality of the Pilot Options for a six-month pilot period and, based on the results, recommend either relaxing the spread requirements for all options, ending the pilot, or adjusting the spread requirements.

III. Discussion

The Commission finds that, due to the ISE's market structure, discussed in greater detail below, the proposed rule change is consistent with the requirements of the Act and the rules and regulations thereunder applicable to a national securities exchange.[5] Specifically, the Commission finds that the proposal, which will allow ISE market makers to widen their quotations for Pilot Options when they believe that market conditions require wider spreads, is consistent with section 6(b)(5) of the Act [6] in that it is designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, to remove impediments to and perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest.

The Commission believes generally that maximum quotation spread parameters in the options market are important safeguards to ensure that market maker quotes in options are not unnecessarily wide. The Commission nevertheless believes that the ISE provides sufficiently strong incentives for market makers to disseminate competitive quotes without maximum quotation spread parameters. Specifically, each ISE market maker uses an automatic quotation system to quote independently, customers and professional traders can enter limit orders on the ISE's book, and market makers are only allocated trades when they are quoting at the best price. Moreover, the larger the size of a market maker's quote, the larger portion of a trade it is allocated. The Commission believes that these attributes and rules of the ISE provide strong market incentives for market makers to Start Printed Page 14729maintain narrow and competitive quotation spreads. Consequently, the Commission believes that the ISE's proposal to establish a $5 maximum spread on a pilot basis in 50 options classes is consistent with the Act.

The ISE is implementing the proposal on a six-month pilot basis. Prior to the conclusion of the pilot program, the ISE has agreed to submit a report to the Commission assessing the operation of the pilot program and, in particular, the quality of the quotations for the Pilot Options.[7] The report will include: (1) The identity of the Pilot Options; (2) information concerning the frequency with which quotations for the Pilot Options were narrower than the current quote spread parameters for options at that price, at the current quote spread parameters for options at that price, and wider than the current quote spread parameters for options at that price; (3) the average quotation spread for each Pilot Option during each month of the pilot program; (4) the widest and narrowest quote spreads for each Pilot Option during each month of the pilot program; (5) any problems that developed during the pilot program and how the ISE addressed those problems; and (6) any additional information that would help the Commission assess the pilot program.

IV. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the Commission finds that the proposal is consistent with the requirements of the Act and rules and regulations thereunder.

It is therefore ordered, pursuant to section 19(b)(2) of the Act,[8] that the proposed rule change (SR-ISE-2001-15) is approved as a six-month pilot program to expire on September 19, 2003.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated authority.[9]

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

3.  The ISE's pilot program will include only equity options and not index options. Telephone conversation between Mike Simon, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, ISE, and Yvonne Fraticelli, Special Counsel, Division of Market Regulation (“Division”), Commission, on February 25, 2003.

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4.  See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 46860 (November 20, 2002), 67 FR 70988.

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5.  In approving 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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7.  Telephone conversation between Mike Simon, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, ISE, and Yvonne Fraticelli, Special Counsel, Division, Commission, on March 19, 2003.

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[FR Doc. 03-7119 Filed 3-25-03; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P