On April 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had received two proposed national market system plans from separate groups of stock exchanges relating generally to securities symbols. In addition, Nasdaq has filed with the SEC a separate proposal to permit a company to retain its symbol when transferring its listing to Nasdaq from another stock exchange. Historically, security symbols have been assigned under an informal understanding among the listing markets. It has been the practice of the New York Stock Exchange to list companies using 1-, 2- and 3-character symbols. Other exchanges, including the American Stock Exchange and regional exchanges, have also listed companies using 3-character symbols. Nasdaq has always listed companies using 4- and 5-character symbols.
The Nasdaq Proposals. Since November 2005, Nasdaq has made a series of announcements regarding its intention to begin listing companies with 1-, 2- and 3-character symbols and, on March 21, filed a proposal to allow one company, Delta Financial Corporation, to transfer its listing from Amex to Nasdaq while keeping its 3-character symbol. In addition, on March 29, Nasdaq filed a proposal that would permit the display of 3-character symbols on Nasdaq. This proposal will be considered by the SEC after the required public comment period which will close on April 25.
The General Proposals. At the request of the SEC, for the past two years the exchanges have discussed a national market system plan for the process of reserving, selecting, and allocating securities symbols. Following these discussions, the exchanges recently submitted two competing proposals relating generally to symbols. One proposed plan is supported by Amex, the NYSE and NYSE Arca and limits the use of 1-, 2- and 3-character symbols to those listing markets that traditionally used those symbols. Such proposal does not address the use of 4- and 5-character symbols. The second proposed plan is supported by Nasdaq, NASD, the National Stock Exchange and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. This plan would permit any listing market to use 1-, 2-, 3-, 4- or 5-character symbols. The SEC intends to publish these two proposed plans for public comment.