Wall Street: Heat Under the Collar

Few events make Wall Street squirm as much as a public investigation of its affairs. Last week, as the Securities and Exchange Commission opened a wide-ranging inquiry into the fees charged to stock investors, it began to look like a warm-under-the-collar summer for the New York and American Stock Exchanges. For the first time since such rates were devised in 1792, the markets must publicly defend a system of minimum commissions that the SEC contends is capricious and unfair.

Even before the Washington hearings began, the exchanges had given a bit. In separate...

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