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March 1, 2000

Washington Watch - Vito Wants to Avoid Decimal Disaster

By William Hoffman

New York Congressman Vito Fossella, reacting to concerns over the timetable set for introducing decimal pricing, said he still hopes to go ahead next month with congressional hearings on the scheduled July 3 switch.

"The consensus is that decimal trading is a positive advancement, but our overriding goal is to protect the safety and soundness of the markets and the investing public," the Republican congressman said in a recent statement in response to the Securities and Exchange Commission's endorsement of the markets' decimalization schedule. "The conversion to decimal trading should be done in the most responsible manner possible."

Late last year, Fossella called for hearings on the securities industry's readiness for decimalization. He said he had been approached by market participants who told him off-the-record, that sections of the industry might not be fully prepared for the switch.

Craig Donner, Fossella's press secretary, said industry reaction to the congressman's call for a hearing in the House Commerce Committee's Finance and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee (of which Fossella is a member) has generated no complaints.

Most commentators say they are glad for the review, Donner said.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) has not set a date for the hearings.

Donner said securities industry executives understand that a hearing could show Congress and the public what they are doing to prepare, while ensuring that the many, varied actors in the transition are all working off the same page.

"Everyone agrees the step to decimal trading is a positive step for the markets," Donner said. "But everyone also agrees it's a historic step."