March 14, 2007
Eliminate the gradfather clause Annette Nazareth Care to comment Annette Nazareth?
Annette Nazareth, who is currently the director of market regulation at the SEC was recently quoted in the New York Times stating that threshold companies and shareholders who complained about their stock being manipulated in the light of illegal naked short sales were just annoyed because they wanted their "stocks to go up." She elaborated by claiming that investors should not have the attitude of believing that there is a "criminal conspiracy when stocks move the wrong way, and the government should do something about it."
It appears that Annette Nazareth has become a symbol for what the Securities and Exchange Commission has done recently, which is to back off on tough enforcement that does not coincide with regulatory action that is suggested by regulations passed by the SEC. For instance, when adopted, Regulation SHO's stated goal was to "require short sellers in all equity securities to locate securities to borrow before selling, and would also impose strict delivery requirements on securities where many sellers have failed to deliver the securities." However, in the SEC's own words, now "naked short selling is not necessarily a violation of the federal securities laws or the Commission's rules."
The reasons given involve the debate over the sometimes innocent causes of failing to deliver shares or stock certificates. According to the SEC, "failures to deliver may result from either a short or a long sale. There may be legitimate reasons for a failure to deliver. For example, human or mechanical errors or processing delays can result from transferring securities in physical certificate rather than book-entry form, thus causing a failure to deliver on a long sale within the normal three-day settlement period." However, with Director Nazareth's comments in mind, it appears that the SEC has provided excuses and will fail to take additional force to strengthen Regulation SHO because the SEC believes it is now nothing more than an allusion. Is this the type of message that the SEC, the advocate for investor protection, wants to send?
Furthermore, many public corporations such as the most recent company, Prime Rate Investors, Inc. (OTC: PRRM), reacted to shareholder frustrations and a public outcry over this very pressing issue of naked short selling. PRRM President Dan Burgess added that "while short selling may have its place in fair market practices, naked short selling undermines the market's ability to justly and accurately reflect the price of equity securities, untowardly affecting issuers and investors alike." Even Congress has stepped into the spotlight recently when in a hearing of the US Senate Committee, Senator Robert Bennett spoke about the issue of naked shorting with Chairman William Donaldson of the SEC. In his beginning remarks, Senator Bennet said that the SEC ".put out a new rule in January to deal with naked short selling, and as nearly as I can tell from my constituents, who feel victimized by this, it's not working."
Finally, Pink Sheets president Cromwell Coulson has asked the SEC to publish short positions on all over the counter and bulletin board stocks. Coulson believes that it is crucial to "require the disclosure of short positions because the lack of transparency is allowing promoters to defraud investors by blaming all selling on naked market maker short selling." If the SEC wants to re-establish its role as a protector for investors than it must go back to the roots of its creation. In the words of Coulson "disclosure and transparency can easily remedy the issue."