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Last year was certainly a turbulent one for investors. Not only did good assets and companies sell off with bad, but the very integrity of the U.S. markets was brought into question. Financial firms spend millions of dollars convincing the average citizen that investing in stocks is necessary and prudent, yet the playing field is far from level. Fraud, naked shorting and other forms of manipulation are now endemic to the American markets. As Overstock's lawyer, John O'Quinn points out, "You have more chance to be treated fairly in a casino in Vegas." How can you invest if you can't trust the system?
Jim Puplava, Mike Schneider and a few other journalists have exposed the prevalence of naked shorting on Wall Street. While selling short is a legitimate activity, naked shorting occurs when parties sell shares they don't own and don't intend to borrow, causing more shares to be traded than actually exist. Approximately 7.5% of the trades reported by the DTCC fail to deliver each day, and this agency is private and not at all transparent. Furthermore, 96% of all stock transactions are completed outside the official system and are totally unregulated.
Regulation SHO was enacted in 2005 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to supposedly eliminate chronic settlement failures by forcing brokers to close out positions after thirteen consecutive trading days. However the regulation doesn't cover small and micro cap companies, or failures to deliver (FTDs) that are below a certain numerical threshold. Market makers were exempt from this regulation until last fall, and old FTDs were allowed to remain open. Some corporations remained on the threshold list for over a year consecutively with no relief from the SEC