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August 31, 1999

Task Force Head Favors Transaction-Fee Cap

By William Hoffman

Capping so-called Section 31 transaction fees that traders pay to fund the services of the Securities and Exchange Commission is among the top priorities of Rep. Vito J. Fossella (R-N.Y.) this fall.

"We have the most sophisticated marketplaces in the world. We need to do whatever we can to maintain that." Fossella told Traders Magazine just hours before his formal appointment as head of a congressional task force to improve operations and accessibility at the nation's stock exchanges.

Fossella introduced legislation (H.R. 1256) this spring to limit the total dollar amount of transaction fees the SEC can collect to fund its operations.

"That's a perfect illustration of something that needs to be done," said the second-term Republican whose home turf is Staten Island, in the shadows of some New York- area trading powerhouses.

"Our goal is to make the markets more efficient and to lower government compliance costs for both investors and financial firms," the finance and hazardous materials subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael Oxley (R-OH) said in a statement following his mid-August appointment of Fossella.

Drafting Legislation

Fossella said he will meet with House colleagues and staff after Congress returns from its summer recess. He will prepare a comprehensive review of securities law and regulations, and he will assess the need for modification and reform. Legislation could be drafted by October.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we had a hearing, or several, on this matter," he said, though no timeframe has been set.

Fossella wants to coordinate his work with parallel efforts by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm (R-Texas). Gramm has shepherded financial services modernization legislation (S. 900 and its House companion, H.R. 10) through the upper chamber, but has not yet introduced a bill on specific securities reforms.

Fossella said he also wants to assure full funding for the SEC; review issues related to activities of day traders and day trading firms; open up capital flows across markets and nations; and ensure the most effective self regulation of exchanges. Still, Fossella says his "view is to take a go-slow approach."

Fossella said he plans to consult throughout the process with securities industry firms and associations, traders, brokers, investment and commercial banks, as well as consumer groups.

"I want to strike the right balance," Fossella said. "And I always take the view that the more information, and the more unfettered the information flow, the better for the markets and the consumers."

Protecting consumers and investors will be a top priority in any actions proposed, Fossella said, especially in markets rapidly adjusting to the tumult of Internet-enabled globalization.

"The world has definitely changed in the last 15 years," he said, "and we need to recognize that in any securities legislation."