A section of Nasdaq's Web site about listing qualifications says that the council generally does not exercise its discretion to stay a delisting. But it notes that such stays may be appropriate in stock option accounting cases, given the unexpected nature of the situation, the complexity of the resulting internal investigations and the "enormous" effect the issues could have on the companies and individuals involved.

While a stay can offer temporary protection from the pink sheets, a company must still file the financial reports within the extended time frame granted by the Nasdaq Council. As those extensions now begin to expire, the Nasdaq may have to take a tougher line with the late filers.

Securities-law experts say the delisting rules never contemplated such a situation as the current backdating phenomenon.

Delisting rules exist to protect investors from companies that have ceased providing the market with up-to-date information and whose stock prices therefore no longer match the company's fundamentals, explains Dale Oesterle, a securities-law professor at Ohio State University Law School.

"In the back of Nasdaq's mind must be the view that there's enough information for these prices to still be pretty accurate and that this is a technical disclosure violation and doesn't affect the fundamental aspects of the company," he says.

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