NEW YORK, May 14 (Reuters) - The Securities and Exchange Commission must decide soon whether to ask U.S. stock exchanges to enact a pilot program to try to boost trading in illiquid stocks or let the exchanges put forward a plan first, an SEC commissioner said on Wednesday.
Commissioner Michael Piwowar said a groundswell is building in Congress to enact a pilot program that would look at the "tick size," or the spread between the bid and ask price for quotations for small- and micro-cap stocks.
The SEC can either ask the exchanges to come forward with a plan to develop a pilot program or the SEC can issue an order telling the exchanges to do so, Piwowar said at a conference sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
An order would allow the SEC to better control the process, which Piwowar said he preferred, but either way the SEC has ultimate say in approving the program, he said.
Congress will mandate the SEC to enact a pilot program, so it would be preferable that the SEC act before politicians decide how such a program is structured, said Piwowar, a Republican.
Congress ordered the SEC to study a pilot program when it passed the JOBS act in 2012.
Stephen Luparello, recently appointed director of the SEC's division that oversees markets and brokerages, said a program would likely be announced in the next few weeks.
Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Nick Zieminski