By Sam Vaknin
You must login to vote
Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
In early July, 2008, America's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and New York Stock Exchange Regulation announced that they will investigate the spreading of unsubstantiated or patently false rumors in order to manipulate the prices of stocks. Networks of broker-dealers, hedge funds and investment advisers allegedly participate in these activities on behalf of short-sellers (clients who make a profit when the prices of stocks collapse).
Other shady operators act through the Internet: they target "penny stocks" (illiquid shares with low market capitalization). They spam millions of e-mail inboxes with "good news", "exclusive tips", and "privileged information". When gullible victims buy the shares, they sell at a huge profit. These operations are known as "pump and dump".
Still, it is not easy to prove that a broker or an investment advisor knew that the information he was parlaying was false. Gossip spreads through ephemeral means, such as texting (SMS), IM (Instant Messaging), and anonymous or encrypted re-mailing. Moreover, the unhampered flow of information is at the foundation of both free speech and the efficient operation of financial markets.
Still, maliciously planted false data can undermine trust among market players, dry out liquidity, and ruin perfectly healthy firms. Banks and brokerage houses are especially vulnerable as their main asset is their reputation.
Some people have already been brought to justice. On July 14, 2008, the New-York Times reported:
"In April, the S.E.C. settled a securities-fraud and market-manipulation charge against Paul S. Berliner, a trader formerly with the Schottenfeld Group. The S.E.C. charged he had spread a false rumor about the price of the Blackstone Groupís potential acquisition of Alliance Data Systems, and profited from short-selling Allianceís stock."
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East.
He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com