In an effort to curb abusive short sales and provide public investors with greater disclosure, the SEC made permanent the amendments contained within Interim Final Temporary Rule 204T of Regulation SHO. The temporary rule, enacted in 2008, was originally set to expire on July 31, 2009. However, due to the documented success of Rule 204T, the SEC decided to adopt the rule long-term with some minor modifications.
Short selling is a form of advanced trading whereby a trader essentially bets on the failure, at least in the short-term, of a company. In a typical scenario, an investor sells borrowed securities to a particular buyer for full ownership, with the intent to buy back equivalent shares once the price has declined. The seller then returns the equivalent shares to the lender, thus satisfying any obligations to the lender and profiting from the decline in share price.
In a second and more problematic scenario, an investor sells securities to a particular buyer without having first arranged to borrow the shares which the investor sold. In essence, the investor sells securities in which he or she has no rights with the hope that the investor will then be able to purchase equivalent securities at a diminished price prior to the clearing time period at which delivery to the buyer must be made. This type of trading is commonly known as “naked” short-selling.
Abusive short-selling, and particularly naked short-selling, has been of particular concern to the SEC in that the practice often results in a “failure to deliver,” whereby an investor is unable to deliver the shares he or she has borrowed or sold within the specified time frame. A “failure to deliver” can create a misleading impression of the market for investors, and can have the effect of depriving rightful shareholders of the benefits of ownership.
As such, in 2005 the SEC enacted Regulation SHO, which targets abusive “naked” short-selling by attempting to reduce failures to deliver. Rule 204T, adopted on a temporary basis in October 2008, strengthens the close-out requirements of Regulation SHO for failures to deliver securities resulting from investor short-selling in the securities market. The SEC’s permanent enactment of Rule 204T provides strong evidence of the SEC’s determination to tackle the problems associated with abusive short-selling.