LUCY KOMISAR, 25 February 2021
At the House Financial Services Committee hearing last week on the GameStop debacle, there was an elephant in the room: naked short selling.
Short selling, effectively betting that a stock will go down, involves a trader selling shares he does not own, hoping to buy them back at a lower price to make money on the spread. The trader is supposed to locate (or have a “reasonable belief” he can locate) or borrow the shares in brokerage accounts, and then transfer them to the buyer within two days. This accounts for as much as 50 percent of daily trading.
Naked short selling is when the trader does not find those shares to deliver. It’s costly to big hedge funds to locate hard-to-borrow shares. So prime brokers, who carry inventory of stocks for high-volume short sellers, simply lie about the borrows, to assist their favorite clients.
It’s a scam central to the stock trading system, enabled by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the market regulator, and the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. (DTCC), the stock clearinghouse, to benefit the big players. The SEC has long been run by revolving-door officials who move between it and Wall Street trading houses and law firms. DTCC is owned by the prime brokers, such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Citi, and run in their interests.