Summary – Carol Remond recently wrote a defense of the meltdown of Rocker Partners (a.k.a. Copper River), her argument being, Rocker Partners shut down through no fault of their own, but because starting in September they were not allowed to break the law anymore.
Before publishing the following critique of Carol Remond’s recent article on Copper River, I contacted Carol for comment. Unlike Joe Nocera and Floyd Norris (both of the New York Times), who have at least had the integrity to defend their work, however haplessly, Carol refused any on-the-record comment on this subject. Thus she joins that tradition of journalistic worthies which includes Bethany McLean, Herb Greenberg, and Roddy Boyd, who refuse to defend their work. They can critique, but not engage, opine, but not defend: the sophomores of intellectual discourse.
Last week DowJones reporter and shill extraordinaire Carol Remond wrote a story, “Hedge Fund Copper River to Liquidate“, about the implosion of her hedge fund patron, Copper River (née Rocker Partners). Following a course charted by no lesser luminary than Roddy Boyd (cf. “Roddy Boyd Works It Likes He’s Paying the Rent“), Carol devotes the article to shameless apologetics that would make a congressman blush. Quelle surprise, Carol.
I am not a bayonette-the-wounded kind of guy (indeed, to investors in Copper River I send my condolences). But buried within Carol’s article is a critical admission that will be of interest both to readers of DeepCapture.com, and to those investors ill-starred enough to have stayed with Copper River/Rocker Partners through to its ugly and ignominious end. Carol states:
“Copper River held large short positions in some illiquid stocks when the Securities and Exchange Commission tightened the rules governing short selling…. By doing away with an exemption that was the backbone of a trading strategy that allowed funds to short stocks through the options market, the SEC effectively restricted their ability to maintain these positions.”
The “trading strategy” that was curtailed by the SEC “doing away with an exemption” that existed in the options market was the illegal strategy of naked shorting via rolling failed positions through the options market maker exception to Regulation SHO. Ms. Remond appears not to understand the SEC’s view of this illegal strategy. A fine paper by noted young economist John Welborn fleshed this out over a year ago (“Married Puts, Reverse Conversions and Abuse of the Options Market Maker Exception on the Chicago Stock Exchange”) . In it, he explained the requirement to locate stock, the exception to that requirement which Reg SHO makes for market makers, and the SEC’s view of the misuse of that exception. I will quote from John’s paper at length:
“THE OPTIONS MARKET MAKER EXCEPTION
“An FTD is commonly the result of a naked short sale (or a naked long sale) that does not settle, i.e. the shares sold short (or long) are never delivered to the buyer. In general, naked shorting is illegal. As the SEC’s Chairman Chris Cox said on July 12, 2006, “Selling short without having stock available for delivery, and intentionally failing to deliver stock within the standard three-day settlement period, is market manipulation that is clearly violative of the federal securities laws.”1 There are, however, a few of mechanisms through which naked short sales can be legally executed. One such mechanism is the “options market maker exception.”
“Current SEC rules state that a short seller, acting via a broker-dealer, need only ‘locate’ (as opposed to borrow) the stock prior to a short sale. Regulation SHO requires:
‘…A broker-dealer, prior to effecting a short sale in any equity security, to “locate” securities available for borrowing… Specifically, the rule prohibits a broker-dealer from accepting a short sale order in any equity security from another person, or effecting a short sale order for the broker-dealer’s own account unless the broker-dealer has (1) borrowed the security, or entered into an arrangement to borrow the security, or (2) has reasonable grounds to believe that the security can be borrowed so that it can be delivered on the date delivery is due. The locate must be made and documented prior to effecting a short sale, regardless of whether the seller’s short position may be closed out by purchasing securities the same day.’2 (Emphasis added.)
“In theory, stock markets are made more efficient by intermediaries who ‘make markets’ in order to smooth price and volume fluctuations.3 A market maker acts as a temporary counterparty that poses as buyer or seller in order to facilitate market liquidity. Ideally, market makers’ positions last minutes or hours; generally, positions are closed out at the end of each day. Large prime brokers make markets in both equities and options. Some broker-dealers, like Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, clear and execute trades for options market makers…
“In the process of making markets, which requires hedging positions, market makers theoretically may need to sell stock they temporarily do not have. For this reason, Regulation SHO allowed market makers, ‘…[an] exception from the uniform “locate” requirement, as Rule 203(b)(2)(iii), for short sales executed by market makers, as defined in Section 3(a)(38) of the Exchange Act, including specialists and options market makers, but only in connection with bonafide market making activities (emphasis added).’4 Note that:
‘Bona-fide market making does not include activity that is related to speculative selling strategies or investment purposes of the broker-dealer and is disproportionate to the usual market making patterns or practices of the broker-dealer in that security. In addition, where a market maker posts continually at or near the best offer, but does not also post at or near the best bid, the market maker’s activities would not generally qualify as bona-fide market making for purposes of the exception. Further, bona-fide market making does not include transactions whereby a market maker enters into an arrangement with another broker-dealer or customer in an attempt to use the market maker’s exception for the purpose of avoiding compliance with Rule 203(b)(1) by the other broker-dealer or customer. 5 (Emphasis added.)’
“1 Christopher Cox, Chairman, SEC, “Opening Statements at the Commission Open Meeting,” July 12, 2006.
“2 SEC, Final Rule: Short Sales, Release No. 34-50103, Rule 203 – “Locate and Delivery Requirements for Short Sales,” July 28, 2004.
“3 Some view the market maker as an anachronism left over from the days when stock traded in 1/8th increments and paper certificates actually changed hands. Now, in the electronic age, stock trades in decimals and paper stock has been separated from the electronic claims of ownership on that stock (a process known as “dematerialization”).
“4 SEC Rule 203.
“5 Ibid, Section 1b, “Exceptions from the Locate Requirement: Bona-fide Market Making.”
Thus, Carol is explicitly stating, no doubt unwittingly, that the “backbone of a trading strategy” employed by David Rocker and Rocker Partners/Copper River was, in fact, abuse of an exception which the SEC had specifically deemed out-of-bounds.
Sloppy work, Carol: recommend you send for new instructions.
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