In 1792, the nation combated its
on record. According to financial historians, the Panic of 1972 stemmed from a scheme to drive down the stock of the
Bank of New York
in order to grab control of Bank of New York and launch a rival bank. The crisis led the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to intercede in the financial markets.
As it so happens, Hamilton had founded Bank of New York in 1784, creating parallels to Secretary Henry Paulson and
in the current financial crisis.
The Financial Panic of 1792 resulted in two actions: The New York legislature enacted a ban on short-selling, and 24 stockbrokers met under a Buttonwood tree outside of 64 Wall St. and signed the Buttonwood Agreement on May 17, 1792. That agreement established minimum commission rates and was the origin of the
New York Stock Exchange
, now owned by
Along the way, unrestricted short-selling was re-allowed, and in 1929, the by then well-established NYSE faced another major crisis. Despite lessons learned from 1792, once again financial panic set in, and the stock market crashed. This time, the results were the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (eventually supplanted by the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999) and SEC Rule 10a-1(a)(1), know as the uptick rule, in 1938. The uptick rule was suspended in July 2007.
Once again, we've suffered financial panic, manipulation of share prices and a market crash in 2008 and 2009. You could even argue that Bank of New York was, once again, a target of the financial panic, as was Paulson's Goldman Sachs. Certainly many other institutions were targets of the short sale manipulation, and at least two -- Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers -- were driven out of business.
You could argue that these companies were destined to go belly-up. But a stronger argument can be made that the lack of the uptick rule facilitated the use of other financial techniques, depicted in the chart below, that hastened or finalized those companies' demise.
Unfortunately, uptick-rule-less short-selling serves one purpose: to drive down the stock of a company and seek financial gain, without regard to the rights of shareholders.
What are these rights? Below is my
, which I originally arranged for my blog.
Shareholders' Bill of Rights
Shareholders have the right to vote their shares in accordance with corporate by-laws.
Shareholders have a claim to the net assets of the company.
Shareholders have a right to receive dividends distributed by the company.
Shareholders have the right to sue the company or its management as an individual or as part of a class.
Shareholders are entitled to receive an annual set of financial statements audited by an independent public accountant.
Shareholders have the right to create and destroy capital.
Shareholders can pledge or assign their stock.
Shareholders can elect to lend or withhold the lending of their stock.
Shareholders right to sell stock shall not be subordinated to any individual or entity.
Shareholders ownership shall not be nationalized by any government.
Short-sellers do not share these rights. They do have a right to make money, but not if that action conflicts with or impinges upon shareholders' rights. I would take it even one step further and say that short-sellers, regulators, legislators and courts have an obligation to protect the rights of shareholders in the course of their business as a matter of public policy.
Click here to sign TheStreet.com's petition to reinstate the uptick rule.
At the time of publication, Rothbort was long Goldman Sachs and Bank of New York, although positions can change at any time.
Scott Rothbort has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. In 2002, Rothbort founded LakeView Asset Management, LLC, a registered investment advisor based in Millburn, N.J., which offers customized individually managed separate accounts, including proprietary long/short strategies to its high net worth clientele. He also is the founder and manager of the social networking educational Web site
Immediately prior to that, Rothbort worked at Merrill Lynch for 10 years, where he was instrumental in building the global equity derivative business and managed the global equity swap business from its inception. Rothbort previously held international assignments in Tokyo, Hong Kong and London while working for Morgan Stanley and County NatWest Securities.
Rothbort holds an MBA in finance and international business from the Stern School of Business of New York University and a BS in economics and accounting from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Term Professor of Finance and the Chief Market Strategist for the Stillman School of Business of Seton Hall University.
For more information about Scott Rothbort and LakeView Asset Management, LLC, visit the company's Web site at
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