The history of short-side stock manipulation

58 sec read

I need some input on the book I’m writing (more information on that here).

I’m looking for the best, most colorful examples of post-1934 short-side stock manipulations.

As I see it, stock manipulation comes in three general flavors…

  1. Trade-based: on the short side, this is the essence of abusive, illegal short selling, is the general focus of this blog, and not something I need more examples of. Instead, please consider the following two types.
  2. Action-based: where the manipulator, usually (but not always) from within the company, takes steps to literally affect the real or perceived value of the company for the purpose of benefiting an existing stock position. There are myriad examples of this sort of thing happening prior to Securities Exchange Act of 1934, but not nearly as many since, and most of those are long-side. If you know of any great examples of short-side, action-based stock manipulation, pleases add them as a comment below.
  3. Information based: where the manipulator intentionally disseminates incorrect information about a company’s prospects for the purpose of benefiting a stock position. Much of DeepCapture.com is dedicated to exposing examples of this sort of abuse, primarily on the short side. This was also technically outlawed in 1934, but as I suspect we’ve all seen, happens on a grand scale nonetheless.  But if you know of any particularly interesting or outrageous examples not yet discussed here, please add them as a comment below.

Please limit your suggestions to cases that went to trial or otherwise experienced some level of fact-finding or other official response.

As always, if you’d rather add your insights privately, my email is jbagley@deepcapture.com.

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56 Replies to “The history of short-side stock manipulation”

  1. I think the activity Mr. Byrne and his DeepCapture cohort write about can all be explained better as state sponsored industrial sabotage than as mere criminal activity. Parsimony is still adhered to, given that the head of Homeland Security, Mr. Chertoff has stated that “the line between the military and criminal activity has been obliterated”.

  2. I should say, Judd, that the old guys I knew when I was young, guys that owned several different businesses back in the 20’s and 30’s felt so strongly against “going public”, that is, becoming a publicly traded company, that it would be fair to characterize it as one of the 8 deadly sins (I know 7), coming in at number 2 or 3. They are all dead now, but Mr. Byrne may know some people who would remember conversations with men such as the ones I have described, conversations which revolved around avoiding just the type of problems discussed here.

    P.S. I do hope you at least consider what I have said in my earlier post. I really don’t expect a response and that’s OK. I already know I’m not alone on this, but your “data set” is one of the best I’ve seen, and could go a long way toward making the world a safer place for a time, a longer time if the problem is correctly identified.

  3. Nemazee Stole $292 Million, U.S. Grand Jury Alleges

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=a9e4hFSFhjdw

    Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) — Hassan Nemazee, a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who was arrested last month for defrauding banks, was indicted by a grand jury for stealing $292 million from Citigroup Inc.,HSBC Holdings Plc and Bank of America Corp.

    Prosecutors last month claimed Nemazee stole $75 million from Citigroup. The indictment adds Bank of America and HSBC to the case, expands the duration of the alleged fraud, and almost quadruples the amount that Nemazee, 59, is accused of stealing.

    From 1998 to 2009, Nemazee “obtained hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loans from BofA, Citibank, and HSBC,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement yesterday announcing the indictment. “Documents and signatures that Nemazee used to obtain these loans, including documents he submitted to purportedly show that he had hundreds of millions of dollars worth of collateral, were fake.”

    Nemazee, the chairman of Nemazee Capital Corp., is under house arrest in his $20 million Manhattan apartment on a $25 million bond. He hasn’t entered a formal response to the criminal charges. His lawyer, Paul Shechtman, didn’t return a call seeking comment yesterday.

    The financier was one of the leading fundraisers for the Democratic Party. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Nemazee raised at least $100,000 for Clinton, according to the Washington watchdog group Public Citizen. Nemazee brought in at least $500,000 for Obama after he defeated Clinton in the primary campaign, according to Public Citizen. Clinton is now secretary of state.

    Nemazee also raised money for Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry during his 2004 run for the presidency as well as for Senate Democrats.

    Motive

    The indictment adds what prosecutors may say was Nemazee’s motive for his alleged fraud. It says he used proceeds of his scheme to make donations to candidates, political action committees and charities, to buy real estate in Italy, and to make monthly maintenance payments on properties in Manhattan and Katonah, New York.

    As of August, Nemazee owed about $142 million to Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America and about $75 million to Citibank, a unit of New York-based Citigroup Inc.

    Nemazee made partial payments to one bank with loans he fraudulently obtained from other banks, according to the indictment. He repaid money owed to Bank of America with funds he got from Citibank, and he drew down on a line of credit from London-based HSBC to repay Citibank, prosecutors said.

    ‘Virtual Offices’

    Nemazee is accused of providing banks with fake account statements, forging signatures on documents, and claiming that “virtual offices” he created were associated with broker- dealers where he said he held collateral.

    The indictment also seeks to force Nemazee to forfeit $292 million, as well as his interest in five pieces of real estate, 16 corporate entities and one hedge fund, 14 securities accounts, 32 bank accounts, a 2008 Maserati Quattroporte, and a 2007 Cessna airplane.

    Nemazee is charged with three counts of bank fraud, each of which carries a maximum potential prison term of 30 years. He’s also accused of aggravated identity theft.

    Another prominent fundraiser for Democrats, Norman Hsu, was convicted by a federal jury in May of campaign finance fraud for making tens of thousands of dollars in illegal donations. He also pleaded guilty to cheating investors of more than $20 million in a Ponzi scheme. He is awaiting sentencing.

  4. AAPL stock took a massive 5 minute nosedive the day they announced the first generation iPhone. They were hosting a conference (MacWorld IIRC) and about 2-3 minutes before Steve Jobs’ presentation there was some trade-based short manipulation that took out stop orders down below. It was momentary and then after all the stops were taken out it skyrocketted back up as if it had never happend. The SEC never investigated and there was no trading halt.

  5. This may be exactly the opposite of what you’re looking for, but maybe the case of Volkswagen deserves some honorable mention? Just as an example of a case where things didn’t go quite as planned for the hedgies…

  6. Take a look at IIG from 2005 through 2007 … although this never when to trial … it is pretty obvious this stock was subject to extreme stock manipulation. IMO this stock was subjected to all 3 types.

    – Extreme NSS … on RegSho for long periods. It also had the highest % (vs. outstanding shares) of reported shorts for an extended period of time. Then the option activity went through the roof.

    – There was a lot of disinformation … see the Stock Lemon website (now Citron Research) run by Andrew Left with bogus research reports. Mark Cuban also badmouthed IIG on his blog. He soon after started his own “short” research website (sharesleuth.com/), so he could front run these reports.

    – There were mysterious investigations into customer complaints by various State AG’s office even when there were not significant numbers and some of those were old and/or settled complaints. The timing and spacing of these events made them seem orchestrated. As well as how they seemed coordinated with surges in short selling and/or options activities.

    It is a fairly complex scenario, so it can get difficult to follow everything. As a long investor during this period, it was fairly apparent that there were significant outside influences working again this company and trying to damage it.

    Another much discussed short backed manipulation if NFI (now NOVS.PK), but I wasn’t significantly invested … so I don’t know the details.

  7. Why not also look at the tricks to manipulate stocks up??? Its not only short manipulation but also short squeeze manipulation which gets almost ZERO attention.

  8. Henry, there has never been a real short squeeze in our capital markets.. NEVER. The SEC would not allow it!!! Do your homework. And don’t try the Volkswagon bit!!!

    1. I’m not so sure Sean, I found the whole recent Volkswagen story to be pretty relevant. I don’t think it supports an argument towards upside manipulation, and I agree if it had happened with American companies inside of American borders that the situation would certainly have turned out differently. But I do think it demonstrates a remarkable example of a case where the bad guys, despite all of their shadowy efforts and shady tricks, lost out (BIG) on what they must have thought was a sure thing. I brought it up in a post above because I believe there was a heavy amount of naked short selling going on, there is simply no other way to explain such a major spike in the price of a stock other than that the naked shorts were scrambling to cover their positions at market value to try to stop the bleeding (if they had done a pre-locate on the stocks they had already sold short, or hedged their positions with options, the price would never have surged like it did). Plus I get a HUGE kick out of all the whining and crying that the hedgies did following the squeeze (hedge funds complaining about a lack of disclosure…Mr. Pot, there is a Mr. Kettle here who would like to talk to you).

      Henry, I certainly do not doubt that there is plenty of upside manipulation going on in our markets today, but this site is dedicated to covering the topic of naked short selling. Like an ER doctor, triage forces us to focus on the patient in front of us with a sucking chest wound before we can worry about the guy in the waiting room who cut off his finger with a power tool. We are fighting the war one battle at a time, and for those of us who frequent this page, this is the battle we feel deserves all of our attention at the moment.

  9. Judd, would you kindly remove the Anonymous post just above. This post is very offensive and is not close to bing on topic!!! Thanks.

  10. = DJ SEC To Host Roundtables On Securities Lending, Short-Selling
    10:54 AM Eastern Daylight Time Sep 11, 2009
    WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission plans to hold two roundtable
    discussions on securities lending and short-selling, the agency announced Friday.
    The first roundtable, slated for Sept. 29, will focus on securities lending issues.
    The second meeting on Sept. 30, meanwhile, will discuss short-selling pre-borrowing requirements and ideas for
    potential new disclosure regulations on short-selling.
    Both meetings will commence at 9:30 a.m. EDT and be held in the auditorium at the SEC’s headquarters in
    Washington.
    Panelists for both sessions will be announced at a later date.
    -By Sarah N. Lynch, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6634; sarah.lynch@dowjones.

  11. Does anyone look conspicuosly absent from this kind of action..like Joe Lewia for example who lost more than 1 billion in the Bear (no pun intended)debacle? I wonder why.

    He’s gunning for BearBig investor says fallen firm lied about its woesBy MARK DeCAMBRE

    Last Updated: 4:07 AM, September 26, 2009

    Posted: 1:21 AM, September 26, 2009

    Nearly two years after the stunning collapse of Bear Stearns, activist investor Bruce Sherman doesn’t appear able to put the firm’s demise behind him — and that’s bad news for former Bear CEO Jimmy Cayne.

    Cayne is one of several targets that Sherman is aiming at in a lawsuit that claims Bear misled and misrepresented facts to investors about the firm’s financial health leading up to the Federal Reserve-forced sale of the once-venerable Wall Street firm to JPMorgan Chase in March 2008.

    Sherman, co-founder of Private Capital Management, owned 5.5 million shares of Bear Stearns, or roughly a 5.9 percent stake, worth more than $475 million, before it plunged to nearly zero when Bear fell. Sherman eventually sold his stake and retired from PCM, which is a unit of Legg Mason.

    “[The] defendants knew that the market and the financial press would view Sherman’s sale of his Bear stock as a loss of confidence in Bear by a well-known and long-standing investor,” the lawsuit said.

    “This, in turn, would have undermined confidence in Bear’s management at a critical time when Bear’s liquidity and Bear’s valuation of its assets were open to question following the implosion of two Bear-sponsored hedge funds in the summer of 2007.”

    Sherman, who at the time of the Bear debacle was both CEO and lead investment officer at PCM, said he “would otherwise have sold [his shares in Bear] months before Bear ultimately collapsed,” if he hadn’t been convinced by the investment bank’s top brass, including Cayne, that the bank wasn’t facing a massive liquidity crunch.

    In addition to Cayne and Bear, the 62-page suit names Warren Spector, Bear’s former co-president and chief operating officer, as well as its outside auditor Deloitte & Touche, as defendants.

    Sherman’s lawsuit is the latest in a series of claims filed against Cayne, whose standing on Wall Street fell amid depictions of him being an out-of-touch, pot-smoking executive who spent more time on the golf course or playing bridge while his banking empire crumbled.

    The 85-year-old fixed-income powerhouse collapsed the weekend of March 14, 2008, and ultimately was forced into the arms of JPMorgan for just $1 billion at the request of the government. Months earlier, Bear’s market value was as much as $20 billion.
    mark.decambre@nypost.com

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    rss Nearly two years after the stunning collapse of Bear Stearns, activist investor Bruce Sherman doesn’t appear able to put the firm’s demise behind him — and that’s bad news for former Bear CEO Jimmy Cayne.

    Cayne is one of several targets that Sherman is aiming at in a lawsuit that claims Bear misled and misrepresented facts to investors about the firm’s financial health leading up to the Federal Reserve-forced sale of the once-venerable Wall Street firm to JPMorgan Chase in March 2008.

    Sherman, co-founder of Private Capital Management, owned 5.5 million shares of Bear Stearns, or roughly a 5.9 percent stake, worth more than $475 million, before it plunged to nearly zero when Bear fell. Sherman eventually sold his stake and retired from PCM, which is a unit of Legg Mason.

    Private Capital Management co-founder Bruce Sherman (above) is suing Bear Stearns, Jimmy Cayne, Warren Spector and Deloitte & Touche, claiming they misled him about Bear’s woes so he wouldn’t dump the firm’s stock.

    “[The] defendants knew that the market and the financial press would view Sherman’s sale of his Bear stock as a loss of confidence in Bear by a well-known and long-standing investor,” the lawsuit said.

    “This, in turn, would have undermined confidence in Bear’s management at a critical time when Bear’s liquidity and Bear’s valuation of its assets were open to question following the implosion of two Bear-sponsored hedge funds in the summer of 2007.”

    Sherman, who at the time of the Bear debacle was both CEO and lead investment officer at PCM, said he “would otherwise have sold [his shares in Bear] months before Bear ultimately collapsed,” if he hadn’t been convinced by the investment bank’s top brass, including Cayne, that the bank wasn’t facing a massive liquidity crunch.

    In addition to Cayne and Bear, the 62-page suit names Warren Spector, Bear’s former co-president and chief operating officer, as well as its outside auditor Deloitte & Touche, as defendants.

    Sherman’s lawsuit is the latest in a series of claims filed against Cayne, whose standing on Wall Street fell amid depictions of him being an out-of-touch, pot-smoking executive who spent more time on the golf course or playing bridge while his banking empire crumbled.

    The 85-year-old fixed-income powerhouse collapsed the weekend of March 14, 2008, and ultimately was forced into the arms of JPMorgan for just $1 billion at the request of the government. Months earlier, Bear’s market value was as much as $20 billion. mark.decambre@nypost.com

  12. Is this theme getting familiar yet.. CONFLICT OF INTEREST..Maybe??

    Since this happened on Schapiro’s watch, it would seem that she not only fails to regulate, but she also fails to invest well.

    FINRA Burned By Hedge Fund, P.E. Investments

    September 28, 2009

    A key U.S. self-regulatory agency hasn’t done a very good job of regulating its own risky investments.

    The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has sharply curtailed its investments in hedge funds, private equity funds and other volatile investments after taking a bath on them last year. The regulator, formed two years ago by the merger of the National Association of Securities Dealers and NYSE Regulation, saw its $1.2 billion investment fund fall 27% last year. In response, FINRA sharply increased its fixed-income allocation to 50%, at the expense of some of the 10 hedge funds and 20 private equity firms that made up about half of FINRA’s money managers last year.

    Among the alternative investment firms that FINRA had money were Farallon Capital Management, Alinda Capital Partners and Siguler Guff & Co., The Wall Street Journal reports.

    FINRA said the losses “have in no way hindered our ability to fulfill our regulatory responsibilities.” But they’ve drawn a lawsuit from one member firm.

    Inglewood, Calif.-based Amerivet Securities has sued the regulator, alleging that it was “reckless in pursuing high-risk strategies inappropriate to preservation of capital.”

    http://www.finalternatives.com/node/9211

    (Post taken from investorsvillage OSTK board)

  13. Jim, you noticed that too huh? I can’t wait to see who else gets promoted because of Madoff’s ponzi scheme!! Yet they still have time to investigate OSTK!!! Amazing.

  14. A year ago today a majority participated in the most egregious decision I’ve ever witnessed by voting NO for the tarp. A simple look at a data base can quickly demonstrate where equity prices were BEFORE that NO vote and two weeks after where they were. As a result of that NO vote the system experienced a flood of selling and naked short selling was in full force as WM/WB were destroyed. Ge fell from a pre market 30.50 to 19 two weeks later and in March 08 was under 6. The second ban on Naked short selling had to be put in place to save the financials and also had to be removed to save those exposed to fail BECAUSE the ban on Naked short selling was causing a squeeze. History will show this period to have been a nearly death blow to our financial system yet the majoriy who voted NO still are out there. Sleep tight knowing the place is in the hands of those who risked and affected the majority for change. Until we remove many of those fools who were instrumental in the strategy for that NO vote and the Tactics that were used. The same group of fools still sit around and defend their votes while another group of fools sit at a round table to consider rule changes. They are coming amidst the delay tactics of GS and others. When you finish this book hopefully you can write one to show what that NO vote did and then list the names of all those involved. Rep and Dem.

    1. I would enjoy seeing the record of short trades on the banks by our very own illustrious senators.

      Shelby, anyone?

  15. http://trueslant.com/matttaibbi/2009/09/29/sec-weighs-new-rules-for-lending-of-securities-wsj-com/#more-833

    Looks like Matt Taibbi is in the fight now, too. Anyone not familiar with him, he is a writer for Rolling Stone, and was responsible for that scathing article on Goldman Sachs earlier this year. I’m glad to have him on board, he is one of the only true journalists left out there who is not afraid to print truth (instead of trading softball questions for more access like the rest of our main stream press).

  16. Anyone notice how Goldman’s is at the top of the ‘knights who say nee’ roundtable invite list. Hilarious but tragic:

    9:40-11 a.m. – Panel 1
    Controls on “Naked” Short Selling: Examination of Pre-Borrow and Hard Locate Requirements

    William Conley, Goldman Sachs
    Peter Driscoll, Security Traders Association
    Dr. Frank Hatheway, NASDAQ OMX Group
    William Hodash, The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation
    Paul Lynch, State Street Corporation
    Michael Mendelson, AQR Capital Management
    Dennis Nixon, International Bancshares Corporation
    William O’Brien, Direct Edgeks,
    Thomas Perna, Quadriserv, Inc.

    Could the SEC be more transparent?

    Why don’t they just say, “Brought to you by Golden Slacks”?

  17. Jim, check this out!! This is what we have as a regulator New and Improved!!LOL!!

    Inspector general lists post-Madoff changes at SECFont size: A | A | A1:45 PM ET 9/29/09 | Marketwatch
    WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The Securities and Exchange Commission’s inspector general on Tuesday recommended that the agency’s enforcement and inspections divisions make changes to how it handles tips and complaints, after it failed to follow up on detailed information and missed exposing the biggest fraud in the regulator’s history: the $50 billion Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff.

    The SEC should “require tips and complaints to be reviewed by at least two individuals experienced in the subject matter prior to deciding not to take further action,” according to one of 20 post-Madoff recommendations made by the SEC’s inspector general.

    Tuesday’s report comes after SEC Inspector General David Kotz issued a detailed report on Sept. 2 about how the agency fumbled its various investigations into Madoff’s funds — in particular, how the agency failed to follow up on three versions of a complaint that well-known investor Harry Markopolos brought against Madoff in 2000, 2001 and 2005.

    Based on that report, Kotz is making a series of recommendations about how the agency’s enforcement division could improve its programs to make sure another massive Ponzi scheme doesn’t happen again.

    In addition to having at least two experienced persons review each tip and complaint, the report also seeks to have the SEC set up a more sophisticated system for handling incoming information. The system would require documentation of why a complaint “was or was not acted upon.”

    Kotz also recommends that the agency establish and annually review guidelines that require all complaints that appear to be credible to be followed up with “in-depth” interviews to assess the validity of the claims.

    Lack of experience

    Responding to concerns that SEC investigators of the Madoff scam did not have sufficient experience, Kotz said the agency should put in place procedures to ensure that investigations are assigned to teams, where one individual has “specific” knowledge of the subject matter, such as Ponzi schemes.

    This recommendation responds in part to one point discussed in the Sept. 2 report, which revealed that the majority of a 2005 investigation into Madoff was performed by a staff attorney who had recently graduated from law school, and only joined the SEC 19 months before she was assigned the investigation. The attorney had never been the lead staff attorney on any investigation before, the report said.

    Inspection failure

    Kotz also retained FTI Consulting Inc. to complete a review of the agency’s Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations — known as OCIE, the agency unit responsible for evaluating complaints and for periodically examining the books of institutions registered with the agency.

    In 2003, for example, the unit didn’t “properly evaluate” a complaint from “highly credible sources” about problems with Madoff’s fund, according to the report. Madoff was registered with the agency and his funds were subject to — and received — periodic inspections.

    FTI also had 37 recommendations, according to the report, including one that would have the SEC set up a collection system for gathering tips and complaints. The group also recommended that all tips considered by the inspections office are vetted within 30 days of being received, with any examinations of funds that take place because of the tips commencing 60 days after the complaint is received.

    In a recommendation similar to Kotz’s proposal for the enforcement division, FTI also recommends that the inspections team document all interviews they complete and log all examinations into a tracking system.

    The group also sought to establish guidelines for searching and screening news articles and other information from industry sources that may indicate securities-law violations by investors and broker-dealers.

    “The protocol should include flexible searching capability to help identify specific areas of risk or concern and should include access to all relevant industry publications. The protocol should also include adequate screening criteria to eliminate unnecessary results and/or to more narrowly define a search in order to generate sufficient results,” according to the FTI report. “The screening criteria and any changes should be documented and the protocol should be reassessed regularly to determine if any modifications are appropriate.”

  18. Jim, Sarge.. how much more obvious can it be?
    I took this post from investorsvillage.

    How obvious can it be?

    The SEC holding a roundtable on NSS with the capos of NSS.

    From Matt’s column today is this excerpt about Wednesday’s SEC roundtable on NSS, followed by Kaufman’s press release.

    <<>>

    Kaufman and Isakson Statement on Tomorrow’s SEC Roundtable on Short Selling

    September 29, 2009

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sens. Ted Kaufman (D-DE) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) released the following statement in advance of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) roundtable on short selling tomorrow.

    “Tomorrow’s SEC roundtable is long awaited, but it is clear that the panel is stacked against the need for restrictions on naked short selling. In the recent financial decline, there was abusive short selling enabled by the repeal of the 70-year-old uptick rule and a lack of so-called pre-borrow or hard locate requirements.

    The recent bull market, however, has lulled us into a false sense of security. If we do not enact these proposals – the uptick rule and either a pre-borrow or hard locate requirement – the same people who drove down certain stocks in the past will just do it again.

    We need to focus on giving the SEC’s Enforcement Division the tools to end naked short selling once and for all.”

    http://kaufman.senate.gov/press/press_releases/release/?id=aa7bc6d1-f21c-4e8d-b500-7123247c5c9b

    1. This whole charade is like asking the drug cartels to participate in a discussion on how to better secure our borders. A ridiculous dog and pony show. Like Jim said, it is an insult to our intelligence and can not go unanswered.

  19. This is pre 1930s, but How about when Cornelius Vanderbilt bankrupted New York Law makers when they shorted more shares of his Railroad than existed.

  20. Look at the Norwegian stock called DNO. They have discovered huge oil reserves in the Kurdish part of Iraq, and are being shorted and manipulated by all means necessary.

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At the time much of the content on DeepCapture.com was written, the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 was either on the verge of happening or had just occurred. In those days, emotions among this publication’s contributors were raw and, in an effort to get their warnings noticed and appropriate blame placed, occasionally hyperbolic language and shocking imagery were employed.

Were we to write these entries today, a different tone would most certainly prevail.

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