Naked short selling, or naked shorting, is the practice of short-selling a tradable asset of any kind without first borrowing the security or ensuring that the security can be borrowed, as is conventionally done in a short sale. When the seller does not obtain the shares within the required time frame, the result is known as a “failure to deliver” (“FTD”). The transaction generally remains open until the shares are acquired by the seller, or the seller’s broker settles the trade.
Short selling is used to anticipate a price fall, but exposes the seller to the risk of a price rise.
In 2008, the SEC banned what it called “abusive naked short selling” in the United States, as well as some other jurisdictions, as a method of driving down share prices. Failing to deliver shares is legal under certain circumstances, and naked short selling is not per se illegal. In the United States, naked short selling is covered by various SEC regulations which prohibit the practice.
Critics, including Overstock.com‘s Patrick M. Byrne, have advocated for stricter regulations against naked short selling. In 2005, “Regulation SHO” was enacted; requiring that broker-dealers have grounds to believe that shares will be available for a given stock transaction, and requiring that delivery take place within a limited time period.
According to data compiled by the SEC and Bloomberg, naked short selling of the shares of Lehman Brothers may have played a role in the North American markets crisis of 2008.