Almost everyone condemns naked short selling. But not the British Treasury
George Monbiot , 15 February 2011
You think you’ve seen the worst of it; you haven’t. Last week I wrote about how the British government, while imposing extra taxes and devastating cuts on ordinary mortals, has quietly engineered a new tax exemption for the banks and corporations, which also encourages these businesses to shift some of their operations overseas. I thought that was as bad as it got. I was wrong.
On the day I wrote that column the Conservatives were doing something just as repulsive, and far more dangerous. On Wednesday George Osborne told the House of Commons “we will make sure we learn every lesson that needs to be learned – so that this [the financial crisis] never happens again”. Two days before, his government demonstrated that nothing has been learned at all. Let me first explain the context.
Most people obtain shares or bonds or other securities in the hope that their value will rise. Short sellers hope their price will fall. They might borrow, for instance, 10,000 shares and sell them for £1 a piece. Then they pray that the value collapses. If they’re in luck, and the share price halves, for instance, they can buy the same number as they sold for 50p each. They return the shares to the broker who lent them, and pocket £5,000 (minus fees).