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Securities trading, financial activity involving transactions of property such as stocks, bonds, commodities, and currency. Although the trading of stocks and bonds dates back several centuries in many Western nations, the development of the securities industry since World War II has been sweeping. The advent of new technologies, particularly in computers and telecommunications, has brought about a new era in securities trading.

Traditional stock exchanges, while still vitally important in major cities around the world, now compete with such over-the-counter over-the-counter, trading organizations as the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (Nasdaq). Nasdaq and other similar systems allow computerized trading, linking investors with brokers and dealers both on a domestic and an international level. Such systems quote the highest bids and lowest asking prices on all securities, giving investors the opportunity to make optimum deals.

In 1986, the London Stock Exchange created a computer-based network similar to Nasdaq with its deregulation move called "Big Bang." It connected London to a group of international securities dealers, making the city's trading floor largely obsolete. In the United States, such over-the-counter trading was at least partially responsible for the problems associated with program trading program trading, that arose in the 1980s and the collapse of the stock market in Oct., 1987. These events highlighted the weaknesses of computerized networks like Nasdaq. The 1980s were a decade of unprecedented volume and activity in securities trading because of technological innovation and new financial products. Securities fraud, particularly the insider-trading scandal, became a major issue. Insider trading, or the private trading of securities based on information that has not yet been made public, became an issue in the mid-1980s with the prosecution of such investors as Dennis Levine (1986) and Michael Milken (1988). Many contend that securities fraud of this sort has been a result of deregulation of the securities industry since at least the early 1980s, with an attendant relaxation of supervision by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The 1990s saw a renewed and accelerated effort by the SEC and other regulatory agencies to regulate the securities industry.

The world of investing is fascinating and complex, and it can be very fruitful. But unlike the banking world, where deposits are guaranteed by the federal government, stocks, bonds and other securities can lose value. There are no guarantees. That's why investing is not a spectator sport. By far the best way for investors to protect the money they put into the securities markets is to do research and ask questions.

The laws and rules that govern the securities industry in the United States derive from a simple and straightforward concept: all investors, whether large institutions or private individuals, should have access to certain basic facts about an investment prior to buying it, and so long as they hold it. To achieve this, the SEC requires public companies to disclose meaningful financial and other information to the public. This provides a common pool of knowledge for all investors to use to judge for themselves whether to buy, sell, or hold a particular security. Only through the steady flow of timely, comprehensive, and accurate information can people make sound investment decisions.

The result of this information flow is a far more active, efficient, and transparent capital market that facilitates the capital formation so important to our nation's economy. To insure that this objective is always being met, the continually works with all major market participants, including especially the investors in our securities markets, to listen to their concerns and to learn from their experience.

The SEC oversees the key participants in the securities world, including securities exchanges, securities brokers and dealers, investment advisors, and mutual funds. Here the SEC is concerned primarily with promoting the disclosure of important market-related information, maintaining fair dealing, and protecting against fraud.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has five Commissioners who are appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. Their terms last five years and are staggered so that one Commissioner's term ends on June 5 of each year. To ensure that the Commission remains non-partisan, no more than three Commissioners may belong to the same political party. The President also designates one of the Commissioners as Chairman, the SEC's top executive.

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