Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How the uptick rule abetted illegal bear raids

Excerpts via Goode Value Investing & Trading Blog.
The SEC Enforcement Division just put out a press release announcing a judgment against a stock trader who conspired with a brokerage CEO and another trader to evade the uptick rule and profit from manipulative short selling, creating ‘bear raids’. See the original SEC complaint [pdf] against Robert Todd Beardsley and his partner George Lindenberg for details (all the quotes that follow come from that document). The two used multiple accounts to attack various stocks with a concentrated barrage of short sales with the aim of quickly driving the stock price down. Beardsley even “utilized the identities of two foreign individuals to open additional Redwood [brokerage] accounts” in an attempt to cover up the scheme.
Now for the interesting part of the story. The duo’s illegal profits were possible only because of the uptick rule. Under the uptick rule, market short sale orders often could not be immediately executed. Those orders would pile up, waiting for an uptick. Market makers and those with special software (as Beardsley and Lindenberg had) could see those unfilled market short sale orders. The duo “looked for stocks where a large market sell order was waiting to be executed, which they surmised was a short sale order”; they would then quickly drive a stock down with short sales and then create an uptick to cover their whole position at a price that was often “one cent higher than their last sale.” In one instance, they sold short 16,485 shares of Tesoro at prices ranging from $17.82 to $17.51; they covered the whole position at $17.52, covering into a market short sale order that could finally be executed. In this manner Beardsley and Lindenberg made about $2,000; they repeated this procedure throughout the day and their profits quickly piled up.

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