Web: Naked in Wonderland

Web

Naked in Wonderland

Patrick Byrne

Forbes via Wayback, 23 September 2008

Recent concerns about short-selling have culminated in a regulatory flurry of emergency orders and amendments. What should be of concern, however, is not short-selling per se: As its devotees frequently remind us, short-selling is a vital and legitimate market activity. What should be of concern are specific types of stock manipulation that cloak themselves within legitimate activities such as shorting, and which, in one way or another, rely upon loopholes in our nation’s system of stock settlement.

“Settlement” is the moment in a stock trade when the seller receives money and the buyer receives stock. Our settlement system has gaping loopholes that allow sellers to sell shares but fail to deliver them. In such cases, the system creates IOUs for shares, and lets those “stock IOUs” circulate in the expectation the seller will soon correct his error. This is harmless–as long as the IOUs are inadvertent, temporary and few.

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