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August 31, 2001

Online Trading Controls Are Inadequate

By Gregory Bresiger

Several regulators and much of the securities industry aren't doing enough to warn investors about online trading, says one government agency that is studying the issue.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Association of Securities Dealers and, most of all, broker dealers are among those that must do more to prevent investors who trade online from hurting themselves. That's according to a recent report of United States General Accounting Office.

The regulators and the brokerages are failing to provide investors with adequate warnings at Web sites, the GAO said. A big oversight, the GAO said, was the failure to adhere to a NASD rule that requires disclosure of margin regulations to investors who are online traders. The GAO report found about one third of brokerages were not meeting this standard. The report calls for the SEC to "ensure conspicuous plain English disclosure of margin risk."