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Lawyer in Spat with NASD

Associated Press

A securities lawyer is facing off against the National Association of Securities Dealers, the brokerage industry’s self-regulatory group, over his plan to publish a directory of firms that would list disciplinary actions against them.

The information already is available from the NASD’s Web site, but users can access the data only one firm at a time and the reports can take days to arrive. The directory would list the more than 5,400 member firms of NASD alongside any actions taken against them, such as criminal charges and convictions or regulatory actions.

The lawyer, Edward Siedle, says the NASD is merely trying to protect its members by making it more difficult to access embarrassing information about brokerage firms. Siedle owns a brokerage based in Florida and is a former attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also advises money managers on fraud issues.

“What they’re objecting to is all the data being made available to all the people,” Siedle said. “I think that would give the American public a much better picture of what the mores of the brokerage industries are.”

Siedle plans to charge customers $850 a year for the biannual volumes, and he estimates annual sales of at least $2 million.

NASD says they object to Siedle using the information for commercial purposes. Howard Schloss, a spokesman for the NASD, said the agency had not yet decided whether to sue Siedle if he goes ahead with his plan, but the group was reviewing its legal options.

Siedle has been in talks with CCH Inc., a legal publisher, but did not yet have a contract to publish the directories. Leslie Bonacum, a spokeswoman for CCH, said the company would not pursue the project pending resolution of Siedle’s disagreement with NASD.

Siedle says he already has a prepared manuscript based on information he hired a programmer to download on the firms one by one from the NASD Web site.

Siedle said he was asking the SEC to intervene in the matter after the NASD last week said it objected to his publication of the data. A spokesman for the SEC declined to comment.

While investment analysts generally supported Siedle’s effort to make the NASD disciplinary information more accessible, some questioned how much demand there would be for a directory of information that is already publicly available in a different form.

“I’m not sure how many books Mr. Siedle may sell,” said Karen Barr, general counsel of the Investment Counsel Association of America, a group representing investment advisers. On the other and, she also said: “I don’t understand why the NASD would object to publication of information that is already available to the public.”

Philip M. Aidikoff, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based lawyer who represents individual investors in disputes with the securities industry, said the directories would provide a valuable service. “This information should be not only publicly available but easily accessible,” Aidikoff said.

“It’s the only way for folks to make decisions about their brokers,” said Aidikoff, who is also president of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association. “The availability through the NASD Web site is cumbersome at best. I don’t think that does an investor who wants to find out about his or her broker much good.”