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January 1, 2002

Wick Rips Critics, Defends Nasdaq

By Gregory Bresiger

Some critics of Nasdaq's SuperMontage plan and its transformation to an exchange are "arguing for the self-serving status quo," Hardwick Simmons, chief executive and chairman of Nasdaq, wrote in a recent letter to The Wall Street Journal.

"SuperMontage," Simmons wrote in defending Nasdaq's transformation to an exchange, "will greatly enhance its (Nasdaq's) competitiveness vis-a-vis the unregulated electronic communications networks that currently snuggle in its branches.

It is this new platform - with its enhanced technology providing even greater transparency and liquidity - that has engendered some opposition to Nasdaq's registration as an exchange," Simmons wrote. He added that stopping the Nasdaq transformation would be bad for investors and "downright un-American."

Raised Hackles

His letter was precipitated by a recent Wall Street Journal editorial (Nasdaq Niche'), criticizing the Nasdaq transformation. That article raised the hackles of Nasdaq officials at the recent annual Security Traders Association convention in Boca Raton, Fla., with one Nasdaq attendee privately complaining, "they [The Wall Street Journal] don't know what they're talking about." The Journal contended that, if Nasdaq wants to compete, so be it, but that means "giving up the advantages that its government protected status allows."

But Simmons said that is why Nasdaq wants to become an exchange. "That's what we want too - to become an exchange, complete our separation from the NASD, and give up the benefit of any government-mandated advantages we have now. Nasdaq will then be an entirely voluntary, investor-owned, for-profit enterprise," Simmons wrote.