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Naked Shorting

Updated on April 30, 2024
Article byShraddha Sureka
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Naked Shorting?

Naked shorting is the form of short selling in which the seller doesn’t borrow the asset that he enters into a contract to sell, nor does he inquire whether such an asset can be borrowed or not, therefore it is a riskier proposition as compared to short selling because at the time of fulfillment of the contract, the asset might not be available and the contract might fail.

What Is Naked Shorting

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Source: Naked Shorting (wallstreetmojo.com)

It is a strategy used to sell the asset, neither owned nor borrowed, and is purchased later to fulfill the delivery to the buyer. It is a variation of short selling; however, the latter uses a borrowed asset to execute the strategy. Post-2007-08 crisis, the SEC made stringent regulations to curb this practice, and later it effectively banned the same to avoid abuse of the system that led to market manipulation.

Key Takeaways

  • Naked shorting refers to selling a security without borrowing or locating shares to cover the position. It can lead to market manipulation and distort the supply-demand dynamics of the stock.
  • Naked shorting can contribute to increased volatility in the targeted stock, as it creates artificial selling pressure in the market. Therefore, this can result in sudden price fluctuations that may negatively impact investors and market stability.
  • It is a controversial practice that raises regulatory concerns. Regulators aim to ensure fair and transparent markets and may impose restrictions or penalties on naked short selling to maintain market integrity.
  • To mitigate the risks associated with naked shorting, regulators and exchanges may implement short sale rules, uptick rules, and circuit breakers to enhance market stability and protect investors.

How Does it Work?

Naked shorting refers to a situation where borrowing the asset is not done. The trader enters into a contract of delivering the asset to the buyer at a predetermined later date and expects that, in the meantime, he will be able to buy the asset from the market at a lower price and fulfill the sale contract. This leads to a risk of not being able to buy the asset and, therefore, of not delivering it to the buyer.

Let us try to understand the process of a regular short sale. In a typical short sale, we follow the below procedure:

Naked Shorting Explanation

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Basically, the trader or the borrower of the asset expects the price of the asset to go down in the market, and therefore he will be able to sell high and buy low later to return the asset to its owner. The price difference between the sale and purchase of the asset is the profit of the trader.

Promise to deliver is made at a higher price because the seller expects that on or before the time of delivery, the price of the asset will fall. If this actually happens, then the purchase of the asset takes place at a lower price. After the delivery of the asset, the difference between the two prices less the transaction costs, if any, becomes the profit for the seller.

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Purpose

The main aim of this type of shorting is to generate liquidityLiquidityLiquidity is the ease of converting assets or securities into cash.read more for a thinly traded stock in which the number of units available is very low. This is known as bona fide market-making activity in which the brokers and dealers exchange such contracts on a continuous basis to generate interest in the stock.

At times the lack of liquidity makes it extremely difficult to enter into a covered shortCovered ShortShort covering refers to buying already sold security which is borrowed in anticipation of a fall in price to cover the short position. A Short position is created by short-selling or selling of security initially borrowed with the expectation of buying at a lower price.read more position for the asset to be shorted. Therefore the traders enter into a naked position to not bear the high borrowing costs and straight away purchase the asset at the time of delivery.

Naked-Shorting

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Rules

As per the new rules released by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) on September 17, 2008, for increasing investor protection, the following actions were taken to prevent ‘abusive’ naked short selling:

Effects

The effect of this strategy can be understood through the following chain of events:

Naked Shorting Effect

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Source: Naked Shorting (wallstreetmojo.com)

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Source: Naked Shorting (wallstreetmojo.com)

As explained above, once the brokers and dealers initiate buying and selling of less liquid stock, other investors get interested in it and start demanding the same. This leads to greater liquidity as it becomes easier to find buyers and sellers for the stock.

It may appear like market manipulation; however, it can also be perceived as a sales promotion or a marketing activity to create a buzz around a new product. Once the demand is generated, the investors undertake due diligence before buying and selling particular security, and therefore, till the time it is not impacting the price, it is a justified effort to garner interest.

Example

Let us try to understand the process with the help of a suitable example.

One of the real-life examples of naked shorting could be the case of SEC v. Rhino Advisors Inc. and Thomas Badian, February 26, 2003. In this case, Rhino advisors worked on behalf of Sedona Inc and on the instructions of their president, Thomas Badian, entered into short sellingShort SellingShort Selling is a trading strategy designed to make quick gains by speculating on the falling prices of financial security. It is done by borrowing the security from a broker and selling it in the market and thereafter repurchasing the security once the prices have fallen.read more contracts, where the underlying were the stock in which the convertible debentures of the company would be converted if and when the debenture holder exercised his right to convert the debenturesDebenturesDebentures refer to long-term debt instruments issued by a government or corporation to meet its financial requirements. In return, investors are compensated with an interest income for being a creditor to the issuer.read more.

Here these stocks didn’t exist at the time of the short-selling and, therefore, could come under the domain of naked shorting. This led to the suppression of prices for Sedona stocks and eventually forced the debenture holder to convert his holdings into stock.SEC imposed a penalty of $1 million on Rhino Advisors in this case.

Benefits

Like all financial concepts, this concept has advantages and disadvantages. Let us try to analyze the advantages first, as given below:

Limitations

Some important disadvantages of the concept are given in the points below:

It is important to understand and analyse the different advantages and limitations of the concept and them try to put money for such investments because along with return they also bring heavy risk. It is advisable to take the help of professional experts for such investments.

Naked Shorting Vs Short Selling

Both the above terms refer to two different types of financial concepts that are commonly used by traders and investors. But there are some differences between them as follows:

  • Borrowing: Under short selling, the asset is borrowed while in naked shorting, it is not.
  • Regulation: Short selling is regulated but not banned in the US. Naked short selling faces greater regulations and is almost as good as banned because the regulations make such strategies deem to be like short selling only as they require proper due diligence as to the availability of the asset.
  • Objective – For short selling, the investor aims to buy the stocks at a later date at a lower price and return it back to the broker, whereas the aim of naked short selling is to sell shares that do not exist and earn profit.
  • Effect – Simple short sale does not make market unstable. It helps in hedging against loss or making profit from falling market. But naked short selling is a type of market manipulation that create distortions since it is an unethical practice.
  • Suppy of shares – In case of the former, there is an artificial increase in the supply of shares in the market because traders sell shares that do not actually exist, whereas for the latter there is no artificial increase since share that are sold are previously borrowed from the broker.

Therefore, the above are fundamental differences between the two financial concepts of short selling and naked short selling.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is naked shorting legal?

Naked shorting is subject to regulations that vary by jurisdiction. In some cases, it may be allowed under certain conditions, while in others, it may be restricted or prohibited to maintain market integrity.

What are the risks of naked shorting?

Naked shorting can contribute to market manipulation, increased volatility, and potential harm to investors. It can lead to distorted prices and unfair advantages for market participants engaged in such practices.

How do regulators address naked shorting?

Regulators employ various measures to address the risks associated with naked shorting. These can include implementing short-sale rules, uptick rules, and circuit breakers to prevent excessive volatility and maintain market stability. Penalties may also be imposed for violations of short-selling regulations.

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This has been a guide to what is Naked Shorting. We explain the purpose, rules, effects with example, benefits, limitations & differences with short selling. You can learn more from the following finance articles –