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Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

[Release No. 34-68115; File No. SR-NASDAQ-2012-090]

Self-Regulatory Organizations; The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC; Order Instituting Proceedings To Determine Whether To Approve or Disapprove Proposed Rule Change To Amend Rule 4626--Limitation of Liability

On July 23, 2012, The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC ("Nasdaq" or "Exchange") filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("Commission"), pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Act")1 and Rule 19b-4 thereunder,2 a proposed rule change to amend Exchange Rule 4626--Limitation of Liability ("accommodation proposal"). The proposed rule change was published for comment in theFederal Registeron August 1, 2012.3 The Commission received 11 comment letters on this proposal4 and a response letter from Nasdaq.5 On September 12, 2012, the Commission extended the time period in which to either approve the accommodation proposal, disapprove the accommodationproposal, or to institute proceedings to determine whether to approve or disapprove the accommodation proposal, to October 30, 2012.6 This order institutes proceedings under Section 19(b)(2)(B) of the Act7 to determine whether to approve or disapprove the accommodation proposal.
II. Description of Proposal8

Pursuant to existing Nasdaq Rule 4626(a), Nasdaq and its affiliates are not liable for any losses, damages, or other claims arising out of the Nasdaq Market Center or its use.9 However, existing Nasdaq Rule 4626(b) allows Nasdaq to compensate users of the Nasdaq Market Center for losses directly resulting from the systems' actual failure to correctly process an order, Quote/Order, message, or other data, provided the Nasdaq Market Center has acknowledged receipt of the order, Quote/Order, message, or data. Nasdaq's payment for all claims made by all market participants related to the use of the Nasdaq Market Center during a single calendar month shall not exceed the larger of $500,000 or the amount of the recovery obtained by Nasdaq under any applicable insurance policy.10

As set forth in more detail in the Notice, Nasdaq proposes to add subsection (3) to Nasdaq Rule 4626(b) to establish a voluntary accommodation program for certain claims arising from the initial public offering ("IPO") of Facebook, Inc. ("Facebook") on May 18, 2012 (collectively "Facebook IPO").11 Specifically, Nasdaq proposes to compensate market participants for certain claims related to system difficulties in the Nasdaq Halt and Imbalance Cross process ("Cross")12 in connection with the Facebook IPO in an amount not to exceed $62 million.13 Further, as proposed, claims for compensation must arise solely from realized or unrealized direct trading losses from four specific categories of Cross orders: (i) Sell Cross orders that were submitted between 11:11 a.m. ET and 11:30 a.m. ET on May 18, 2012, that were priced at $42.00 or less, and that did not execute; (ii) sell Cross orders that were submitted between 11:11 a.m. ET and 11:30 a.m. ET on May 18, 2012, that were priced at $42.00 or less, and that executed at a price below $42.00; (iii) buy Cross orders priced at exactly $42.00 and that were executed in the Cross, but not immediately confirmed; and (iv) buy Cross orders priced above $42.00 and that were executed in the Cross, but not immediately confirmed, but only to the extent entered with respect to a customer14 that was permitted by the member to cancel its order prior to 1:50 p.m. and for which a request to cancel the order was submitted to Nasdaq by the member, also prior to 1:50 p.m.15

According to proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3)(B), the measure of loss for the Cross orders described in (i), (iii), and (iv) above would be the lesser of: (a) The differential between the expected execution price of the orders in the Cross process that established an opening print of $42.00 and the actual execution price received; or (b) the differential between the expected execution price of the orders in the Cross process that established an opening print of $42.00 and a benchmark price of $40.527.16 With respect to Cross orders described in (iv) above, the amount of loss would be reduced by 30 percent.17 Further, according to proposed Rule 4626(b)(3)(B), the measure of loss for the Cross orders described in (ii) above would be the differential between the expected execution price of the orders in the Cross process that established an opening print of $42.00 and the actual execution price received.18

With respect to the process for submitting claims pursuant to proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3), all claims must be submitted in writing no later than seven days after this accommodation proposal is approved by the Commission.19 As proposed, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. ("FINRA") would process and evaluate all the claims submitted, using the standards set forth in Nasdaq Rule 4626.20 FINRA would then provide to the Nasdaq Board of Directors and the Board of Directors of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc. an analysis of the total value of eligible claims submitted under proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3), and Nasdaq would thereafter file with the Commission a proposed rule change setting forth the amount of eligible claims and the amount it proposes topay to its members.21 All payments would be made in cash and would not be made until the proposed rule change setting forth the amount of eligible claims becomes final and effective.22

Furthermore, as proposed, in order to receive payment under proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3), not later than seven days after the effective date of the proposed rule change setting forth the amount of eligible claims, the member must submit to Nasdaq an attestation detailing the amount of customer compensation23 and covered proprietary losses.24 Failure to provide the required attestation within the specified time period would void the member's eligibility to receive compensation under proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3).25 In addition, under proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3)(H), all payments to members under the accommodation proposal would be contingent upon the execution and delivery to Nasdaq of a release by the member of all claims by it or its affiliates against Nasdaq or its affiliates for losses that arise out of, are associated with, or relate in any way to the Facebook IPO Cross or any actions or omissions related in any way to that Cross.26 The failure to provide this release within 14 days after the effective date of the proposed rule change setting forth the amount of eligible claims would void the member's eligibility to receive compensation pursuant to proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3).27

With respect to the priority of payment under proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3), payments would be made in two tranches.28 First, if the member has provided customer compensation, the member would receive an amount equal to the lesser of the member's share or the amount of customer compensation.29 Second, the member would receive an amount with respect to covered proprietary losses, however, the sum of payments to a member would not exceed the member's share.30 According to proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3)(G), if the amount calculated under the first tranche (i.e.,customer compensation) exceeds $62 million, accommodation would be prorated among members eligible to receive accommodation under the first tranche. If the first tranche is paid in full and the amount calculated under the second tranche exceeds the funds remaining from the $62 million accommodation pool, such funds would be prorated among members eligible to receive accommodation under the second tranche.31 Further, if a member's eligibility to receive funds is voided under proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3), and the funds payable to other members must be prorated, the funds available to pay other members would be increased accordingly.32

III. Summary of Comments and Nasdaq's Response

As previously noted, the Commission received 11 comment letters on the accommodation proposal and one response letter from Nasdaq.33 Eight commenters raised concerns with respect to the accommodation proposal,34 two commenters expressed their support for the accommodation proposal,35 and one commenter addressed the issue of exchange liability more broadly.36

Commenters raised concerns in the following areas, each of which is discussed in greater detail below: (1) The requirement that market participants release all other potentially valid claims as a condition to participation in the accommodation program; (2) Nasdaq's calculation and use of a benchmark price of $40.527; (3) the categories of claim-eligible trading losses; (4) the amount of the accommodation pool; (5) regulatory immunity from private suits and limitations on liability; (6) the applicability of Nasdaq Rule 4626; (7) the impact of approval of the accommodation proposal on pending litigation; and (8) two procedural issues.

A. Release of All Claims Relating to the Facebook IPO Cross

Several commenters expressed concerns that payment to eligible claimants are conditioned upon the member firm executing a release of claims by the firm or its affiliates against Nasdaq for losses associated with the Facebook IPO on May 18, 2012.37 Specifically, one commenter indicated that requiring execution of the release as a precondition to participation in the accommodation proposal creates a "fundamentally unfair dilemma" for members.38 According to the commenter, Nasdaq members must choose to execute a release of claims and participate in the accommodation program, which may not make the member whole, or pursue "cost-and resource-intensive alternative avenues of recovery."39 Another commenter noted that releases of claims are typically the product of commercial, arms-length negotiation and not part of a rule imposed by a regulatory authority.40 Finally, one commenter suggested that Nasdaq members be given the option to "opt in" to the accommodation program on an order by order basis or a firm by firm basis.41

In response, Nasdaq asserted that the release requirement is fair, reasonable, and furthers the objectives of Section 6(b)(5) of the Act42 because it is "aimed at avoiding unnecessary litigation and ensuring equal treatment of all members receiving funds under the [accommodation] [p]roposal."43 Moreover, Nasdaq noted that participation in the accommodation program and execution of the release are entirely voluntary.44 Accordingly, members that wish to forego participation in the accommodation program and pursue claims againstNasdaq instead remain free to do so.45 Nasdaq also noted that the use of a release is routine in the context of a payment in settlement of a disputed claim, including those brought against regulated entities.46 Finally, Nasdaq argued that allowing members to participate in the accommodation program without releasing Nasdaq from other claims related to the Facebook IPO Cross would, in effect, "subsidize the costs of future litigation against itself."47

B. Nasdaq's Uniform Benchmark Price

Several commenters expressed concern with Nasdaq's calculation and use of the uniform benchmark price of $40.527 to determine the amount of compensation owed to a member under the accommodation proposal.48 Generally, these commenters stated that, contrary to Nasdaq's assertion, a "reasonably diligent member" would not have mitigated losses during the first forty-five minutes after execution reports were delivered to firms.49 More specifically, two commenters stated that the uniform benchmark price should be based on a VWAP of Facebook stock on Monday, May 21, 2012.50

In its response letter, Nasdaq reasserted that the use of the VWAP of Facebook stock during the 45 minute window after 1:50 p.m. is appropriate as the benchmark price because 45 minutes provided members enough time to identify and mitigate any unexpected losses or unanticipated positions.51

C. Nasdaq's Categories of Claim-Eligible Trading Losses

Several commenters stated that the types of orders eligible to receive compensation under the accommodation proposal are too narrowly defined.52 Two commenters believe that Nasdaq should provide compensation for losses resulting from "downstream operational, technological and customer issues."53 One commenter stated that Nasdaq's system failures, specifically the failure to deliver execution reports for more than two hours after trading began, "caused direct and severe damage" to the commenter and other market participants and led to direct trading losses.54 Another commenter argued that customer orders entered before 11:11 a.m. on May 18, 2012, that were "cancel/replaced" between 11:11 a.m. and 11:30:09 a.m. should be treated differently from other orders entered during such time and should be entitled to full compensation.55

Another commenter observed that the accommodation proposal provides no direct compensation to "ordinary retail investors" and does not guarantee that retail investors would receive any compensation for losses.56 Because Nasdaq's proposal contemplates paying retail customers through Nasdaq member broker-dealers, the commenter expressed concern that there is no guarantee that compensation will ultimately be passed back to the retail investor, especially in instances where the member's "customer" is another broker-dealer.57

Nasdaq responded that the question before the Commission is only whether the proposal is consistent with the requirements of the Act.58 Nasdaq asserted that commenters have not argued that the proposal "discriminates unfairly" among members or that it is otherwise inconsistent with the requirements of the Act.59 Nasdaq stated its belief that none of the comments provide a basis for the Commission to determine that a modification to the methodology and criteria it proposed "is necessary to remedy any inconsistency with the Exchange Act."60 With respect to retail investors, Nasdaq stated that its accommodation proposal would benefit retail investors with eligible claims even though Nasdaq has no direct relationship with them.61 Nasdaq noted that the accommodation proposal requires each member to submit an attestation detailing the amount of compensation provided or to be provided by the member to its customers.62 Moreover, Nasdaq pointed out that accommodation payments are to be made in two tranches with the first tranche going toward retail customer claims.63

D. $62 Million Accommodation Pool Is Insufficient

Several commenters argued that the proposed $62 million accommodation pool is an insufficient amount to compensate market participants harmed by Nasdaq's systems issues.64

Nasdaq responded that commenters' objections to the amount of compensation are "unpersuasive" because the Commission has already determined that rules, such as existing Nasdaq Rule 4626, limiting exchange liability are consistent with the Act.65 Accordingly, if the accommodation proposal is disapproved, Nasdaq asserted that the current limitation on liability of $500,000 would apply.66 Nasdaq emphasized that members who believe the amount of compensation offered is insufficient or otherwise dislike the accommodation proposal may elect not to participate.67 Nasdaq also stated that the purpose of the accommodation proposal is "not to pay all claims of losses alleged with respect to the trading of Facebook stock," but rather the purpose is "to modify an existing rule that limits Nasdaq's liability to $500,000 in order to make additional funds available to compensate members and their customers for the categories of lossdefined in the [accommodation] [p]roposal * * * ."68

E. Regulatory Immunity From Private Suits and Limitations on Liability

Several commenters stated that Nasdaq is not entitled to immunity from liability because it was acting in its "for profit" capacity in its handling of the Facebook IPO, rather than acting in its "regulatory capacity" as a self-regulatory organization.69 However, the two commenters that supported the accommodation proposal noted that the broader issues of regulatory immunity and limitations on exchange liability should be considered separately from Nasdaq's accommodation proposal.70

Nasdaq responded that the Commission's task with regard to the accommodation proposal is only to determine whether the proposed rule change is consistent with the Act, and the Commission does not need to address the issue of regulatory immunity to do so.71

F. Applicability of Nasdaq Rule 4626

According to one commenter, market participants' losses "resulted not from the type of ordinary system failures contemplated by Rule 4626 * * *, but rather from a known design flaw that resulted in a similar technology issue dating back to Fall 2011, as well as Nasdaq's high-risk, profit-oriented behavior prior to and during the IPO * * *"72 This commenter argued that it is improper to use Rule 4626 to create an accommodation fund in connection with the Facebook IPO because the losses suffered in connection with the IPO do not fall within the parameters of Rule 4626.73

Nasdaq emphasized in response that Rule 4626 is a pre-existing Commission approved rule and that the rule squarely applies to Nasdaq's systems issues related to the Facebook IPO.74

G. Impact on Pending Litigation

Two commenters expressed concern that Commission approval of the accommodation proposal might negatively impact other adjudications of disputes with Nasdaq regarding the Facebook IPO.75 The commenters expressed concern that courts or other adjudicative bodies might interpret Commission approval of the accommodation proposal as defining or approving the classes of eligible claimants as restricted only to market participants who submitted one of the four enumerated Cross order types.76 The Nasdaq Letter did not specifically respond to commenters' concerns on this issue.

H. Procedural Concerns

Several commenters raised procedural concerns regarding the implementation of the accommodation proposal.77 Two commenters noted that Nasdaq should waive the one-year time limit to bring actions against Nasdaq in Sections 18(H) and 19 of its Service Agreement given the amount of time it could take to implement the compensation process set forth in the proposed rule change.78 Three commenters stated that Nasdaq member firms should not be required to release Nasdaq from liability before member firms receive notice of a final payment amount pursuant to the accommodation proposal.79

Nasdaq responded that commenters' requests to extend the one-year time limit for members to bring claims against Nasdaq improperly ask the Commission to interfere with existing contractual relationships that have no bearing on whether Nasdaq Rule 4626 should be amended.80 As for concerns that claimants might have to release their claims against Nasdaq prior to receiving compensation under the accommodation proposal, Nasdaq stated that it does not object to the release becoming effective upon payment.81

IV. Proceedings To Determine Whether To Approve or Disapprove SR-NASDAQ-2012-090 and Grounds for Disapproval Under Consideration

The Commission is instituting proceedings pursuant to Section 19(b)(2)(B) of the Act82 to determine whether the proposed rule change should be approved or disapproved. Institution of such proceedings is appropriate at this time in view of the legal and policy issues raised by the proposed rule change, as discussed below. Institution of proceedings does not indicate that the Commission has reached any conclusions with respect to any of the issues involved. Rather, as described in greater detail below, the Commission seeks and encourages interested persons to provide additional comment on the proposed rule change.

Pursuant to Section 19(b)(2)(B) of the Act,83 the Commission is providing notice of the grounds for disapproval under consideration. In particular, Section 6(b)(5) of the Act84 requires that the rules of a national securities exchange be designed, among other things, to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, to foster cooperation and coordination with persons engaged in regulating, clearing, settling, processing information with respect to, and facilitating transactions in securities, to remove impediments to and perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system, and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest; and not be designed to permit unfair discrimination between customers, issuers, brokers, or dealers.

As discussed above, Nasdaq's accommodation proposal would amend its existing Rule 4626 to provide $62 million to compensate certain types of claims arising in connection with the Facebook IPO Cross on May 18, 2012. Further, as proposed, a Nasdaq member must execute a release of all claims by the member or its affiliates against Nasdaq or its affiliates for losses that arise out of, are associated with, or relate in any way to the Facebook IPO Cross or to any actions or omissions related in any way to that Cross in order to receive any payment under proposed Nasdaq Rule 4626(b)(3). The concerns articulated by commenters, including the limited categories of claims eligible for compensation, the method of determining losses for certain categories of eligible claims, and the requirement that a member waive all claims againstNasdaq or its affiliates for losses that relate to the Facebook IPO Cross, raise questions about whether the accommodation proposal would promote just and equitable principles of trade, protect investors and the public interest, and not be designed to permit unfair discrimination between market participants.85

Accordingly, in light of the concerns raised by commenters, the Commission believes that questions are raised as to whether Nasdaq's accommodation proposal is consistent with the requirements of Section 6(b)(5) of the Act, including whether the accommodation proposal would promote just and equitable principles of trade, protect investors and the public interest, and not be designed to permit unfair discrimination between customers, issuers, brokers, or dealers.

V. Procedure: Request for Written Comments

The Commission requests that interested persons provide written submissions of their views, data, and arguments with respect to the concerns identified above, as well as any other concerns they may have with the accommodation proposal. In particular, the Commission invites the written views of interested persons concerning whether the accommodation proposal is consistent with Section 6(b)(5)86 or any other provision of the Act, or the rules and regulations thereunder. Although there do not appear to be any issues relevant to approval or disapproval which would be facilitated by an oral presentation of views, data, and arguments, the Commission will consider, pursuant to Rule 19b-4, any request for an opportunity to make an oral presentation.87

Interested persons are invited to submit written data, views, and arguments regarding whether the accommodation proposal should be approved or disapproved by November 23, 2012. Any person who wishes to file a rebuttal to any other person's submission must file that rebuttal by December 7, 2012. Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

Electronic Comments

* Use the Commission's Internet comment form (http://www.sec.gov/rules/sro.shtml); or

* Send an email torule-comments@sec.gov.Please include File Number SR-NASDAQ-2012-090 on the subject line.

Paper Comments

* Send paper comments in triplicate to Elizabeth M. Murphy, Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street NE., Washington, DC 20549-1090.

All submissions should refer to File Number SR-NASDAQ-2012-090. This file number should be included on the subject line if email is used. To help the Commission process and review your comments more efficiently, please use only one method. The Commission will post all comments on the Commission's Internet Web site (http://www.sec.gov/rules/sro.shtml). Copies of the submission, all subsequent amendments, all written statements with respect to the accommodation proposal that are filed with the Commission, and all written communications relating to the accommodation proposal between the Commission and any person, other than those that may be withheld from the public in accordance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552, will be available for Web site viewing and printing in the Commission's Public Reference Room, 100 F Street NE., Washington, DC 20549, on official business days between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Copies of such filings also will be available for inspection and copying at the principal office of the Exchange. All comments received will be posted without change; the Commission does not edit personal identifying information from submissions. You should submit only information that you wish to make available publicly. All submissions should refer to File Number SR-NASDAQ-2012-090 and should be submitted on or before November 23, 2012. Rebuttal comments should be submitted by December 7, 2012.
For the Commission, by the Division of Trading and Markets, pursuant to delegated authority.88

8817 CFR 200.30-3(a)(57).

Kevin M. O'Neill, Deputy Secretary.
ACTION: 87Section 19(b)(2) of the Act, as amended by the Securities Acts Amendments of 1975, Public Law 94-29 (June 4, 1975), grants the Commission flexibility to determine what type of proceeding--either oral or notice and opportunity for written comments--is appropriate for consideration of a particular proposal by a self-regulatory organization.SeeSecurities Act Amendments of 1975, Senate Comm. on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs, S. Reps. No. 75, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. 30 (1975).