(Reuters) - “He who sells what isn’t his’n, must buy it back or go to pris’n.” - Daniel Drew, 1797-1879, American financier
Short sellers are often criticized for exaggerating movements in share prices, distracting management, and profiting from misfortune. Even Napoleon reportedly once called short sellers “enemies of the state.” Indeed, short sellers have come in for criticism any time there has been market turbulence.
But short selling also has its defenders, including such financiers as Seth Klarman and Warren Buffett, who say it adds liquidity to the market and serves as a counterweight to Wall Street bullishness.
The following lists key moments in short selling history:
1609 - The Dutch East India Co protests to the Amsterdam Exchange after short sellers make enormous profits on its stock. That leads to the first ever regulations on shorting in the following year
1733 - Britain bans naked short-selling
1917 - The New York Stock Exchange implements restrictions on shorting and requires a list by noon every day of speculators
1929 - Short sellers among those blamed for Wall Street crash
1932 - U.S. President Herbert Hoover condemns short selling for speculative profit on the New York Stock Exchange
1938 - The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission seeks to restrict short selling by only allowing it when a stock’s price is rising, the “uptick rule,” which is repealed in 2007
1940 - The Investment Company Act is passed and restricts mutual funds from short selling
1949 - Alfred Winslow Jones, a financial journalist, creates the first modern hedge fund by forming an unregulated fund that buys stocks while shorting others to hedge some of the market risk, and thus was born the “hedge fund”
1987 - Congress investigates short selling following market crash
1997 - Malaysia charges Credit Lyonnais with short selling following the collapse of the country’s currency and stock market
2001 - Wall Street firms ask short sellers not to try to profit from falling shares following the September 11 attacks.
2001 - Within two weeks of the September 11 attacks, financial regulators investigate whether groups linked to Osama bin Laden tried to profit by shorting the shares of an insurance company exposed to claims from the destruction
2004 - The SEC approves a new rule called Regulation SHO which seeks to reduce naked shorting by requiring the publication every day of a list of the securities with significant delivery failures. In a naked sale, the seller does not borrow the stock in time to deliver the stock to the buyer within the required three-day settlement period. Reg SHO comes into effect in January 2005
2005 - Overstock.com OSTK.O sues research firm Gradient Analytics Inc and hedge fund Rocker Partners, charging that they worked together to spread negative news about the company and drive down its stock price. In a conference call the day after filing the suit, Overstock President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne claimed the company was in the midst of a conspiracy orchestrated by a "Sith Lord"
2006 - CEO Ken Lay testifies short sellers met in 2001 to conspire to attack Enron ECSPQ.PK, ultimately bringing it down
2007 - The SEC unanimously repeals the uptick rule in June
2008 - Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz testifies about short sellers inducing a panic and bringing down the firm before the U.S. Senate’s finance committee
2008 - The SEC makes an emergency order curbing short selling
Compiled by Phil Wahba and Emily Chasan; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe
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