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May 9, 2008

SEC Streamlines Filings

By Peter Chapman

The Securities and Exchange Commission, stung by sharp criticism from the nation's stock exchanges and its own Office of Inspector General, will streamline its rule-approval process for self-regulatory organizations.

By June, the SEC's Division of Trading and Markets will recommend to SEC commissioners new procedures for evaluating and approving SRO rule filings.

The initiative, first announced by SEC chairman Christopher Cox in February, comes as SROs have complained that the notice-and-comment process is cumbersome and takes too long.

Nasdaq OMX, especially, has been vocal in chastising the SEC for its "arcane" rule-approval process. In a recent letter to the SEC, addressing the regulator's "mutual recognition" plan, Nasdaq complained of "persistent, lengthy delays under the Exchange Act rule-filing process" and an "arcane system of notice-and-comment rule-making."

The SEC's Office of Inspector General recently put out a lengthy report criticizing the pace at which SRO rule filings are processed. It made several recommendations, including a requirement that the SEC put out for comment any rule proposal within 30 days. The SEC, by its own count, processed 1,143 rule changes last year and 1,014 in 2006.

This won't be the SEC's first attempt to make over the rule-filing process. In 2001, the regulator proposed making most exchange trading rules effective immediately upon filing. The proposal died.

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