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April 21, 2005

A Step Closer for Nasdaq Exchange Status

By Gregory Bresiger

Nasdaq's application to become a formal stock exchange is tantalizingly close to approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It could all hinge on corporate structure rather than internalization. This practice is a backbone of the dealer market, a major contributing factor to Nasdaq's stalled application. However, Nasdaq is still under pressure to make concessions of sorts on internalization. (See separate story.)

"The particular issue is not so much the concept of internalization in the absolute sense, but the concept of internalization within the technical legal definition of an exchange," Nasdaq CEO Robert Greifeld told Traders Magazine. (See cover story.) "If our exchange application is approved, it means we have come to terms with the commission that will allow internalization - the internalization that exists today that provides enhanced value to investors - to continue to exist."

At the SEC's open meeting in December, Annette Nazareth, the agency's director of the Division of Market Regulation, said her group was optimistic it could find an acceptable plan for Nasdaq's exchange application. Nasdaq says the solution will come from corporate structure rather than market structure reform. The application approval would release Nasdaq from various obligations, and permit it to compete more vigorously with rivals such as the New York Stock Exchange and various electronic players.

"We remain cautiously optimistic that we can come to a meeting of the minds with the SEC," Greifeld said.