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Rating:Is An Alternative to the Hard 4pm Near? Not Rated 1.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Monday, January 24, 2005

Is An Alternative to the Hard 4pm Near?

Reported by Theresa Sim

After a record year of rulemaking, much has been made of the fact that the SEC has still made little headway in fixing the problems that sparked the mutual fund firestorm. Although the SEC's proposed rule to combat late trading is still outstanding, one organization is working hard to change that.

Robert Wuelfing, director of the SPARK Institute, has been meeting with the SEC since the fall of 2003, and believes the group is making progress. Wuelfing submitted the Institute's latest proposal on January 4 and met recently with staff members of the Division of Investment Management in late December.

"We believe that we have something that...meets their needs, and gives them confidence that there is an alternative to the hard 4."

The key to the Institute's hard 4 p.m. alternative is a trade processing system that requires all share trading information (other than the price) to be electronically captured and time stamped before the daily pricing deadline. The time stamp must be supplied by a third party and be "unalterable."

Third parties would play a critical part in not only time stamping orders, but storing critical trade information and reviewing trades for irregularities.

The road has been one of give-and-take, says Wuefling. The Institute's whittled its 34-page initial proposal down to three pages. "[We are] comfortable that time we put into this is going to pay off, he adds.

As for the SEC's timetable on the issue -- it's anybody's guess. It's "probably premature to guess" when the SEC will take action, says Wuelfing. The agency did not have any open meetings planned as of Thursday. A spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Not every SPARK member company is supportive of the work, stresses Wuelfing. Wuelfing's efforts are part of the SPARK Institute, the organization's advocacy arm and representative of approximately 70 companies of SPARK's broader 270-member constituency.

"There are companies out there that…would like to see everything go away and be business as usual," says Wuelfing. The alternative to doing nothing about the issue is bleak, he says: "When we have another scandal, we are going to have a hard 4."

"Two years from now, we're going to be able to say, we had a significant impact on the retirement industry and the retirement industry is better off," says Wuelfing. 

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