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Leveling Nasdaq's Playing Field

New SEC rules would broaden investors' access to prices

On Aug. 8, the National Association of Securities Dealers was censured for failing to halt widespread price-fixing on its NASDAQ stock market. Now, the Securities & Exchange Commission is set to drop a second shoe.

On Aug. 28, the SEC is expected to approve trading rules that could go a long way toward putting small investors on a par with the pros. The two key changes: All investors will have access to the best quoted prices, which are now available only to institutional traders and broker-dealers, and brokers won't be able to ignore offers from investors to trade at prices that undercut the prices quoted by dealers. In any one trade, a small investor might come out only a few dollars ahead. But cumulatively, the difference amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.