September 7, 2006
We respectfully beg the SEC to step in and put in an end to NASD's OATS program. The OATS program has been the biggest boondoogle ever foisted on the brokerage industry and the investing public. The program is so complex and so arduous to develop and maintain that it actually has become a second line of business, sucking up time, money and resources, for, primarily, smaller broker/dealers. The OATS program perhaps began with good intentions, but has now burgeoned into a bloated bureauctatic monstrosity. The OATS program has probably cost the investing public billions of dollars, and yet, to date, we have not seen ANY evidence, not a single published report, of how OATS has helped the investing public or assisted any way in improving the capital markets.
We have heard of broker dealers who are sending all their order flow to their clearing firms, for example, in order to take advantage of exemptions for OATS reporting. This is hurting the public. Every time a brokerage firm tries to develop new software or services, OATS lurks there in the background like an unwanted and bothersome parasite, sucking all the blood from innovation.
The NASD makes OATS so complex in order to find mistakes and fine broker dealers. With a minimum fine of $10,000, it is an income-generating gimmick for the NASD. Nobody fully understands OATS. Not even the NASD -- as calling their OATS help desk frequenntly indicates.
Perhaps mammoth brokers like Ameritrade and ETrade, with their multi-billion dollar technology and compliance budgets, don't lose any sleep about OATS (principally because they can just pay the fines). But the vast majority of NASD members are small and medium firms trying to scratch out a profit, for which OATS compliance is simply unmanageable.
Over-regulation is strangling the capital markets. Something must be done. Please put an end to OATS. Please break the NASD's monopoly over regulation and allow cometition in the SRO arena, particularly for smaller firms.