Monday, February 1, 2010

The Practice of Short Selling Sometimes Abused.

That the practice of "short selling", though ordinarily legitimate, is sometimes perverted so as to work an injury to the public is shown by the following extract from a message of Governor Sulzer of New York, sent to the Legislature in January, 1913:

"The subject of so-called 'short sales' is one requiring your serious consideration. A contract to sell property which a man does not own at the time, but with which he can provide himself in time for the performance of his contract, is a general transaction in various branches of business.

"The best views seem to be that short selling in and of itself is not wrongful, but the abuse of this practice works injury to the public.

"Your efforts should therefore be to draw a distinction, so that what will be condemned is the perversion of a legitimate form of business to improper ends."

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Gambling on Prices

Gambling on prices is betting on the rise and fall in market prices by means of pretended purchases and sales or pretended employment as a broker or commission merchant to make pretended purchases and sales. In other words, it is using the forms of buying or selling, or the forms of employment to buy and sell, where no real buying or selling or real employment is contemplated, the parties agreeing to settle with each other by the mere payment of differences of the prices of pretended purchases and pretended sales.

Thus is appears that in speculation and in gambling on prices the result depends upon an uncertain future event. The difference is that, in one the parties are engaged in legitimate business beneficial to both of them, while, in the other they are engaged in an idle and useless occupation beneficial only to the party winning and, when carried to excess, injurious to society.

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Selling Produce Short

Selling produce short is selling it for future delivery when the seller does not own the property at the time of the sale, but hopes to be able to buy it at a less price when or before the time for delivery arrives, thus making a profit from a fall in price. The short seller is therefore a speculator.

In a 'short sale' of stock the contract for future delivery employed is a contract of borrowing. The seller does not, at the time of the sale, own any of the stock sold, but he borrows the same amount of stock from one who does own it and delivers the borrowed stock to the purchaser. The seller must return the stock to the lender and for this purpose he must buy it at some future time. He hopes to be able to buy it at less price than he sold it and thus make a profit of the difference between the two prices.

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Abuses of the Stock Exchange.

The distinction between legitimate speculation in "futures" and gambling on prices is not generally understood and, therefore, to many people both are equally objectionable.

The difference between gambling and selling "short" -- the limit of legitimate speculation and futures -- is thus clearly pointed out by Mr. T. Henry Dewey, of the New York Bar, in a booklet he has recently published.

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