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Volume 18, Number 5

in Economics and Finance

current issues

Market Declines: What Is Accomplished
by Banning Short-Selling?
Robert Battalio, Hamid Mehran, and Paul Schultz
In 2008, U.S. regulators banned the short-selling of financial
stocks, fearing that the practice was helping to drive the steep
drop in stock prices during the crisis. However, a new look at the
effects of such restrictions challenges the notion that short sales
exacerbate market downturns in this way. The 2008 ban on short
sales failed to slow the decline in the price of financial stocks; in
fact, prices fell markedly over the two weeks in which the ban was
in effect and stabilized once it was lifted. Similarly, following the
downgrade of the U.S. sovereign credit rating in 2011—another
notable period of market stress—stocks subject to short-selling
restrictions performed worse than stocks free of such restraints.


uring periods of market stress, it is common to hear calls for restrictions on
short-selling, the practice of borrowing shares and then selling them with the
intention of repurchasing them later at a lower price. The concern of some market observers is that short-selling may drive stock prices to artificially low levels.
In 2008, as the financial crisis worsened, this concern prompted a number of
countries to ban short-selling. Some countries prohibited short sales on all stocks,
while others limited the ban to financial stocks. And very recently, in July 2012, certain
European countries imposed bans similar to those adopted in 2008.1

In this edition of Current Issues, we investigate whether the short-selling bans
of 2008 were effective in stemming the decline of U.S. stock prices. We examine the
conjectured link between market downturns and short-selling, then evaluate evidence
on the bans’ effectiveness in limiting share price declines in 2008. We also explore the
costs imposed by these bans.
Our analysis of the empirical evidence from the United States suggests that the bans
had little impact on stock prices. Even with the bans in place, prices continued to fall. At
the same time, the bans lowered market liquidity and increased trading costs. On the latter point, we estimate that the ban raised total trading costs in the U.S. equities options
market by $500 million2 in the period between September 18 and October 8, 2008.
To gain additional evidence on these issues, we also consider the market effects
of short-selling in August 2011, when Standard and Poor’s (S&P) announced that it
was lowering the long-term sovereign credit rating of the United States. At the time,
no blanket ban on the practice existed in the United States. Although the S&P 500 fell
1 Spain and Italy reinstated bans on short-selling on July 23, 2012.
2 Boehmer et al. (2009) estimate that the costs in the equity market exceeded $600 million. Combining this figure
with our estimate for the options market brings the increase in total trading costs to more than $1 billion.


6.66 percent on August 8, the first trading day after the downgrade was announced, our findings suggest that short-selling
was not a cause of the market’s decline. Indeed, stocks with net
short-selling around this time actually had higher returns than
other stocks.

What Is Short-Selling?
Short-selling is the selling of borrowed shares by investors who
expect to cover their positions later by repurchasing the shares
at a lower price. Because of the profit opportunities it presents,
short-selling is a common practice. Diether, Lee, and Werner
(2009) show that during 2005 it accounted for 24 percent of trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange and 31 percent of
Nasdaq trading volume.
Most short sales are conducted by market makers or highfrequency traders, or by options market makers who short to
hedge their options positions. Market makers and high-frequency
traders generally do not maintain short positions for long
periods. In fact, they typically close them within minutes or even
seconds of opening them.
Our focus is on investors who short stocks for longer periods
because they believe the stocks are overpriced; they expect to profit
by repurchasing the stocks after prices have fallen. These investors
generally borrow the shares from an institution, often one with a
passive investing strategy. In exchange for the stocks, the borrower
places collateral, usually cash, with the lender. (The standard collateral for U.S. equities is 102 percent of the shares’ value.)
The lender of the stocks pays interest on the collateral at a rate
that is negotiated between the borrower and lender—referred to
as the rebate rate. For stocks that are easy to borrow, rebate rates
may range between 8 and 25 basis points below the federal funds
rate (large loans typically receive a larger percentage rebate). In
the event of a large demand for shares to short or a small supply
of shares to be lent, the stock may be hard to borrow—in which
case, the rebate rate may be substantially below the federal funds
rate. In extreme cases, the rebate rate can even turn negative. The
borrower of the stock then pays interest to the lender rather than
the other way around.

Short-Selling and Market Declines
From a long-run perspective, stocks that are overpriced relative to
their fundamental values present a problem for the economy. The
market will eventually correct the mispricing, but in the meantime, real resources may flow to the overpriced stock or industry.
And while stocks are liquid financial instruments, the investments in the mispriced firm or industry may not be so liquid,
leading to long-term disruptions in the real economy long after
the stock price is corrected.
For example, consider the new-technology firms that were
caught at the end of the dot-com bubble. While it took only a


short time for the market to correct what were, in retrospect,
overpriced technology stocks, the employees, customers, suppliers, and lenders associated with those firms took much longer to
react, recover, and return to productivity.
In much the same way, an artificially underpriced stock sends
a distorted signal to investors. Capital gets directed toward other
investments when it could have been put to better use at the
undervalued firm or industry. Accordingly, regulators and economists generally agree that it is good for short-selling to depress
stock prices if the stocks are overvalued, but bad if short-selling
pushes stock prices below fundamental values.
Short-sellers claim that by identifying overvalued stocks and
correcting the mispricing, they provide a valuable service
to investors. For example, in his testimony before the House
Committee on Energy and Commerce in 2002, short-seller James
Chanos, founder of Kynikos Associates, a private investment
management company specializing in short-selling, reported that
his firm looked for companies that appeared to have materially
overstated earnings, that had been victims of a flawed business plan, or that had been engaged in outright fraud.3 Chanos
testified that, months before Enron’s collapse, he began shorting
the firm’s stock because of suspicious gain-on-sale accounting,
cryptic disclosure of related-party transactions, and an apparent
return on investments that was less than the firm’s cost of capital.
Despite concerns that short-selling can artificially drive prices
below fundamental values, it is not easy for investors to make
money in this way. Short sales may depress stock prices, but the
short-seller profits only after buying back the shares at low prices
to close the position. If purchases and sales have a symmetric
impact, such that a sale of shares moves prices down by about
the same amount as the purchase of the same number of shares
would raise prices, prices will rise to their original levels when
the short-seller buys back the shares. In that case, the short-seller
will not profit from this strategy and will instead lose money on
trading costs.
One way for a short-seller to make a profit shorting a stock that
is not overvalued is to somehow fool other investors into selling
him the shares at a price that is lower than the one he charged the
original investors.4 This is a risky scheme, however, and may prove
very unprofitable. If the short-seller succeeds in moving prices below fundamental values and investors catch on to his game before
he repurchases the shares to cover his short position, the shortseller can suffer substantial losses as investors drive up share prices.
Moreover, if short-sellers spread false rumors about a company or
attempt to manipulate its share price, they are engaging in illegal
activities and the targeted company may fight back.
3 See the prepared testimony of Chanos before the House Committee on Energy
and Commerce, “Developments Relating to Enron Corp” (February 6, 2002),
available at
4 Note that this strategy would not work if

no-arbitrage conditions held.

Examining 327 disputes between short-sellers and companies,
Lamont (2004) finds that, on average, the stocks of the targeted
companies underperformed the market the following year by
a whopping 24.7 percent. One explanation for these abysmal
returns is that the companies’ stocks were overpriced and shortsellers successfully ferreted out the mispricing. A second explanation, preferred by managers of the shorted firms, is that shortsellers continued to drive prices even further below fundamental
values after companies fought back. Lamont, however, finds this
explanation unconvincing because “many of the sample firms are
subsequently revealed to be fraudulent.”
In addition, investigations into the activities of the shortsellers were requested by sixty-six of Lamont’s sample firms. As
Lamont notes, if the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
had found that these short-sellers were spreading false rumors,
manipulating prices, or committing other illegal acts, their criminal activity would have been revealed and the stock would have
rebounded. In fact, the companies that requested investigations
earned abnormal returns of -27.7 percent the following year.
Another way in which a short-seller can profit from shorting a
stock that is correctly priced is by weakening investor confidence
in the firms whose stocks are shorted. This seems to have been a
concern of the SEC when it imposed the 2008 ban on short sales.5
Financial firms whose soundness has been called into question in
this way might be required by counterparties to post additional
or higher-quality collateral. They might even find that other
companies have decided to stop lending securities to them or
trading with them altogether. Of course, this would be an efficient
outcome—and one that limits systemic risk—if the stock price
of such a firm was low because the business was unsound. But
if the stock price was driven to artificially low levels because of
short-selling, the outcome would be an adverse one.
Still, it might take time to damage a financial firm in this way.
Prices may need to be held artificially low for an extended period.
Moreover, the firm would have an interest in convincing investors
of the soundness of its assets. If other smart investors believed
that the financial firm’s assets were solid, they would trade against
the short-sellers, making the shorting strategy a risky one.6

5 See the SEC press release of September 19, 2008, which states, “It appears that
unbridled short-selling is contributing to the recent, sudden price declines in
the securities of financial institutions unrelated to true price valuation. Financial
institutions are particularly vulnerable to this crisis of confidence and panic
selling because they depend on the confidence of their trading counterparties in
the conduct of their core business.” The press release is available at http://www
6 A Google Scholar search using the string “short sales market manipulation”
identified few academic articles that document a meaningful relationship between
manipulative short-selling and large stock price declines. Along these lines, Macey,
Mitchell, and Netter (1989) conclude that “it is unlikely in today’s highly developed
market that ‘bear raids’ could seriously disrupt the workings of the market.”

Are Short-Selling Bans Effective in Preventing
Market Declines?
It is important to consider the consequences of short-selling not just
under normal market conditions, but also in periods of market stress.
Regulatory actions implemented in recent years in a number of
countries have given researchers new opportunities to test whether
bans on short sales have muted or prevented market downturns.
In the fall of 2008, the prices of financial stocks declined
sharply throughout the world. The United States and several
other countries responded by imposing bans on short-selling
of financial stocks. In perhaps the most comprehensive analysis
of these bans, Beber and Pagano (2011) examine the effects of
short-selling bans in thirty countries between January 2008 and
June 2009. Focusing on the countries where short-sale bans did
not apply to all stocks, Beber and Pagano compare the median
cumulative excess returns for stocks that were subject to the ban
and stocks that were not. They compute excess returns by taking
the difference between individual stock returns and the respective equally weighted country index. They then cumulate the daily
excess returns immediately after the imposition of the short-sale
ban, presenting their results separately for the United States and
the rest of the world.
In the end, Beber and Pagano find that U.S. financial stocks
generated positive abnormal returns (relative to the market)
during the short-sale ban, a result consistent with the argument
that the bans keep stock prices from declining. However, they
note that this effect may be due to legislative efforts intended to
support U.S. financial institutions during that period, such as the
Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Consistent with this
assertion, they find that for countries where short-selling bans
were not accompanied by legislative efforts of this kind, the
excess returns generated by the stocks subject to short-sale bans
were similar to the returns generated by the stocks that were free of
bans. The authors conclude that imposition of short-sale bans in
2008 and 2009 was “at best neutral in its effects on stock prices.”
To further explore the impact of the short-sale ban on U.S.
financial stocks, we examine cumulative daily returns for the
995 financial stocks subject to bans during 2008. Daily
holding-period returns are obtained from the Center for Research
in Security Prices, and cumulative returns are equally weighted
across stocks. Since almost all financial stocks were targeted by
the ban, it is difficult (if not impossible) to find an appropriate
benchmark against which to evaluate their returns. In the absence
of a better choice, we present the cumulative daily returns of an
equally weighted portfolio of U.S. nonfinancial stocks that were
not subject to the short-sale ban.
In the days preceding the September 19 ban, the prices of
financial stocks were under stress (Chart 1). The large negative
return on September 15 occurred on the day that Lehman Brothers
filed for Chapter 11 protection. Subsequently, there were large



Chart 1

Equal-Weighted Cumulative Returns for U.S. Stocks
August 1, 2008–October 31, 2008
U.S. stocks not subject to ban

The change in short interest is calculated as the short interest on August 15 minus the short interest on July 29 divided by
the average short interest across the two days. We divide by the
average short interest to normalize the change in short interest, a
step that limits the change to a range of -2 to +2. For a stock to be
included in our regressions, it must have positive short interest on
one or both of the August 15 and July 29 dates.

U.S. stocks subject to ban

Short-sale ban
in effect




Source: Daily return data: Center for Research in Security Prices.
Note: Cumulative returns are equally weighted across stocks and are normalized
to zero on September 14, 2008.

positive returns on Thursday, September 18 (the day before the
ban was imposed), and Monday, September 22 (the first trading
day following the ban); nevertheless, as Beber and Pagano note,
other developments during this brief interval might have buoyed
returns. For example, on September 20, the U.S. Treasury Department submitted draft legislation to Congress asking for authority
to purchase troubled assets.7
Moreover, despite the large positive returns associated with
the initiation of the short-sale ban, the prices of financial stocks
fell more than 12 percent over the fourteen days during which
the ban was in effect. Shortly after the ban was lifted, however,
the prices of financial stocks stabilized. This result accords with
Beber and Pagano’s finding that steep market declines continued
in the countries where short-sale bans remained in effect during
2008 and 2009.

Evidence from the U.S. Bond-Rating Downgrade
The largest decline in U.S. stock prices since 2008 occurred after
Standard and Poor’s announced that it was downgrading its
rating of U.S. Treasury bonds from AAA to AA+. The announcement came after the markets closed on Friday, August 5, 2011. On
Monday, August 8, U.S. stocks fell sharply, with the S&P 500 index
declining 6.66 percent. In this case, there was no blanket ban in
effect on short-selling; short-sale restrictions were applied only
selectively. So how much of this decline, if any, can be attributed
to short-selling?
The short-selling most likely to have an impact on prices
involves the long-term bets on price declines, not short-selling
7 See U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Text of Draft Proposal for Bailout Plan,”
available at


undertaken as part of market-making activities. These longerterm sales appear in biweekly totals of all of the shares held short,
also called short interest. To measure short-selling’s impact on
stock prices at the time of the bond-rating downgrade, we follow
the practice of the empirical literature on this topic and regress
U.S. stock returns from July 29 to August 15 on a normalized
measure of the change in short interest over that period.8

Table 1 provides summary statistics on the distribution of
changes in short positions and returns between July 29 and
August 15, 2011. Short interest did indeed increase for most
stocks over this period, and returns were negative for more than
three-quarters of the stocks.
We see, however, considerable variation across stocks in terms
of changes in short interest. More than a quarter of the firms
actually reported a decrease in short interest. For them, shortsellers were net purchasers of stock during this period.
Table 2 reports ordinary least squares regressions of stock
returns on changes in short interest. If short-sellers were responsible for the decline in prices, we would expect to see lower
returns for stocks experiencing larger increases in short interest.
Instead, stocks with larger increases in short interest had higher
stock returns over this period.
As the table shows, the correlation between short-selling and
stock returns is low. The first row of the table reports regression
results for the full sample of stocks (1,843 stocks). The intercept
(-0.0957) and the coefficient of change in short interest (0.0298)
are both significant, with t-statistics of -43.03 and 3.72, respectively. The adjusted R2—a measure of the degree to which short
sales can explain the drop in return—is only 0.0069. When we
restrict our estimates to stocks with prices of five dollars or more
(1,611 stocks)—see row 2—we still obtain a coefficient for the
change in short interest (0.0277) that is positive and statistically significant (the t-statistic is 3.43).9 The adjusted R2 for the
specification in row 2 is again only 0.0066. To make sure that the
results are not affected by stocks with a small number of shares
shorted, and consequently with a large percentage change in
short-selling, we rerun the regressions using stocks with at least
8 Using short interest as a proxy for short-sale demand, Asquith, Pathak, and Ritter

(2005) find that stocks that were short-sale-constrained underperformed during the
1988-2002 period by 2.15 percent per month on an equal-weighted basis.
9 Short-sale bans usually only ban “naked” short sales or short sales in cash
markets. It is usually possible for more sophisticated market participants to
construct synthetic short positions by selling at-the-money calls and buying
at-the-money puts. This may be a factor in the low correlation between levels of
short interest in cash markets and stock returns.

Table 1

Distribution of Changes in Short Positions and Returns
10 percent

25 percent


75 percent

90 percent


Change in normalized short interest







U.S. stock returns







Sources: Data on short interest: New York Stock Exchange. Data on U.S. stock returns: Center for Research in Security Prices.
Notes: Data on short interest cover stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the American Stock Exchange in the period from July 29, 2011, through August 15, 2011.
The change in short interest is calculated as the short interest on August 15 minus the short interest on July 29, divided by the average short interest across the two dates.

Table 2

Ordinary Least Squares Regression of Stock Returns on Changes in Short Interest

All stocks





Change in Short Interest


Adjusted R2

Number of Stocks




Stocks ≥ $5







Stocks with 1,000,000 or more shares short







Source: Data on U.S. stock returns: Center for Research in Security Prices.
Notes: U.S. stock returns are cumulated from July 29, 2011, through August 15, 2011. The change in short interest is calculated as the short interest on August 15 minus the short
interest on July 29, divided by the average short interest across the two dates.

Table 3

Ordinary Least Squares Regression of Stock Returns on Short-Sale-Restricted Stocks


Short-Sale-Restricted Stocks


Normalized Volume


Adjusted R2

Number of Stocks

















Source: Data on U.S. stock returns: Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP).
Notes: U.S. stock returns are cumulated from July 29, 2011, through August 15, 2011. The regression results in row 2 of the table control for volume. We accumulate the daily trading
volume for each day in September to obtain the September volume; the trading volume for each stock on August 8 is reported by CRSP.

1 million shares short on both dates (1,306 stocks). As reported
in row 3, the adjusted R2 remains a small 0.0166. Changes in
short interest, then, do not explain much of the stock price
decline around the time of the bond-rating downgrade. Indeed,
returns are slightly higher for stocks showing large changes in
short-selling—exactly the opposite of what we would expect if
short-selling was pushing down prices.
In February 2010, the SEC adopted circuit-breaker restrictions
on short-selling. Short-selling of a stock that declined 10 percent
or more is allowed only at prices higher than the national best
bid. This restriction holds for the entire day in which the circuit
breaker is triggered and for the following day as well. For an alternative way of examining the impact of short-selling on returns
following the bond-rating downgrade, we assess the returns of
stocks with restricted short-selling against the returns of stocks
without circuit-breaker restrictions on shorting. We create a dummy variable for stocks that triggered the short-sale restriction
on Friday, August 5 (before the downgrade was announced), and

were thus under circuit-breaker restrictions on short-selling on
August 8. We then regress each stock’s August 8 return on the
short-sale restriction dummy. In a second set of regressions,
we include August 8 volume divided by September volume as
a second explanatory variable.
The results for the first set of regressions are reported in
Table 3, row 1. Stocks subject to short-selling restrictions actually
performed worse on August 8 than the stocks without restrictions
in place at the beginning of trading; the coefficient on the dummy
variable capturing short-sale-restricted stocks is -0.0216, with
a t-statistic of -5.12. The second set of regressions, in which we
control for volume, yields similar results (row 2). Again, stocks
subject to short-selling restrictions underperformed stocks not
covered by restrictions; the coefficient is -0.0217, with a t-statistic
of -5.14. Here, as with the short-interest results, basic correlations
do not support the conjecture that short-selling was associated
with the sharp decline in U.S. stock prices on August 8.



Costs of Short-Selling Bans
The equity markets provide telling evidence of the costs imposed
by short-sale bans. In their multivariate analysis, Boehmer, Jones,
and Zhang (2009) find that the 2008 short-sale ban in the United
States was associated with a 32 basis point increase, on average, in relative effective bid-ask spreads for the banned stocks.
For the 404 financial stocks that were subject to the ban for its
duration—September 18 through October 8, 2008—the increase
in spreads represents an increase in liquidity costs of more than
$600 million.10
This estimate of costs does not include those that arise from
mutually beneficial trades that did not occur because of the
inflated liquidity costs. Beber and Pagano, analyzing the impact
of 2008 short-selling bans on equity trading costs for seventeen
countries, demonstrate that investors in foreign equity markets
were also harmed financially by short-sale bans.
The liquidity and opportunity costs associated with the bans
were not confined to equity markets, however. In the United
States, for example, the ban was initiated on a “triple witching”
Friday (when contracts for stock index futures, stock index options, and stock options expire on the same day). While market
makers in U.S. derivatives markets were initially exempt from
the short-sale ban, their exemption was scheduled to expire
at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, September 19. Thus, market makers
presumed they would be unable to short stock to hedge their risk
after the close of trading on Friday. Accordingly, they were reluctant to take on positions and almost brought about the closing of
the options markets. By midday on September 19, several options
market makers had threatened to stop trading entirely if their
short-selling exemption was not extended.
The SEC was responsive to their complaints. Before the opening of the markets on Monday, September 22, the SEC extended
the short-selling exemption to market makers in derivatives
markets. However, as noted by Battalio and Schultz (2011), it took
several more trading days for the SEC to relax or clarify other
components of the prohibition on short sales that were seen as
overly restrictive by many market participants.
How did the options markets respond to this regulatory action? In their multivariate analysis, Battalio and Schultz find that
puts and calls on banned stocks with October expirations had
quoted spreads that were more than $0.96 wider than the quoted
spreads of their control sample, which consisted of options on
stocks with unrestricted short-selling. They also find that the
quoted spreads of options on banned stocks remained elevated
by an average of 10 percent for the remainder of the short-sale
10 This figure is estimated from the statistics presented in Table 2 and also
in Panel A of Table 4 in Boehmer, Jones, and Zhang (2009). It is computed as
follows: Average dollar trading volume for a stock subject to the short-sale ban is
$66,749,000. We multiply this figure by 404 (the number of financial stocks subject
to the ban for its duration), by 16 basis points (the increase in relative effective halfspreads), and finally by 14 (the number of days the ban was in effect).


Chart 2

Increased Trading Costs Paid by Investors Trading
Options on Stocks Subject to the Short-Sale Ban
September 19, 2008–October 8, 2008
Millions of dollars




24 25 26









Sources: Battalio and Schultz (2011); authors’ calculations.

ban. Drawing on Battalio and Schultz’s findings, we are able to
estimate the daily increase in trading costs paid by liquiditydemanding investors in options markets during the short-sale
ban (Chart 2).11
On September 19, options market makers were unsure if they
would be able to hedge their positions by shorting stock for the
remainder of the ban. Thus, it is not surprising that liquiditydemanding investors paid more than $110 million in inflated
liquidity costs on that Friday, as indicated by the first bar in
Chart 2. The other bars in the chart suggest that the inflated costs
did not disappear once the options market makers were granted
their exemption from the short-sale ban. Battalio and Schultz
attribute these costs to the regulatory uncertainty that prevailed
during this period. Summing across the fourteen days of the
short-sale ban produces an estimate of more than $505 million in
inflated liquidity costs during that time.
Together, the inflated costs of liquidity attributable to the shortsale ban in U.S. equity and options markets are estimated to exceed
$1 billion. And, as noted earlier, this estimate ignores the lost gains
from those trades that would have been made had bid-ask spreads
been at or close to normal levels. The estimate also ignores the costs
imposed on other markets. For example, convertible-bond arbitrageurs purchase more than 75 percent of primary issues of convertible debt (Choi et al. 2010) and hedge their purchases by shorting
shares of stock. When the short-sale ban was imposed, the market
for convertible bonds dried up (see Barr [2008]).
11 Battalio and Schultz’s regression results are presented in the appendix to their

article, available online at
.asp?ref=0022-1082&vid=66&iid=6&aid=6&s=-9999. We calculate the daily
increase in trading costs by multiplying daily trading volume in banned options
by one-half of the authors’ estimate of each day’s marginal spread.

In September 2008, at a time of intense market stress, the United
States and a number of other countries banned the short-selling
of financial stocks. The bans were imposed because regulators
feared that short-selling could drive the prices of those stocks to
artificially low levels. Yet much remains to be understood about
the effectiveness of such bans in stabilizing equity market prices.
And reexamination of this issue is particularly important in light
of the latest wave of bans in Europe, including the restrictions
imposed by Spain and Italy in July.
Recent research on the 2008 bans allows us to assess the costs
and benefits of short-selling restrictions. The preponderance
of evidence suggests that the bans did little to slow the decline
in the prices of financial stocks. In addition, the bans produced
adverse side effects: Trading costs in equity and options markets
increased, and stock and options prices uncoupled.
No blanket short-selling ban was in effect during August
2011, when Standard and Poor’s announced its downgrade of the
U.S. bond rating. Our look at the sharp fall in U.S. equity prices
following the announcement uncovers no evidence that the
price decline was the result of short-selling. Indeed, stocks with
large increases in short interest earned higher, not lower, returns
during the first half of August 2011. Moreover, stocks that had
triggered circuit-breaker restrictions and therefore could not be
shorted on the day the downgrade was announced actually had
lower returns than the stocks that were eligible for shorting.
Taken as a whole, our research challenges the notion that
banning short sales during market downturns limits share price
declines. If anything, the bans seem to have the unwanted effects

of raising trading costs, lowering market liquidity, and preventing short-sellers from rooting out cases of fraud and earnings
manipulation. Thus, while short-sellers may bear bad news about
companies’ prospects, they do not appear to be driving price
declines in markets.


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Barr, Alistair. 2008. “Short-Sale Ban Disrupts Trades for Hedge Funds.” Wall Street
Journal, MarketWatch, September 26.
Battalio, Robert, and Paul Schultz. 2011. “Regulatory Uncertainty and Market
Liquidity: The 2008 Short Sale Ban’s Impact on Equity Option Markets.” Journal
of Finance 66, no. 6 (December): 2013-53.
Beber, Alessandro, and Marco Pagano. Forthcoming. “Short-Selling Bans around
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Boehmer, Ekkehart, Charles M. Jones, and Xiaoyan Zhang. 2009. “Shackling Short
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Choi, Darwin, Mila Getmansky, Brian Henderson, and Heather Tookes. 2010.
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Diether, Karl B., Kuan-Hui Lee, and Ingrid M. Werner. 2009. “Short-Sale Strategies and Return Predictability.” Review of Financial Studies 22, no. 2 (February):
Lamont, Owen A. 2004. “Go Down Fighting: Short Sellers vs. Firms.” NBER
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Macey, Jonathan, Mark Mitchell, and Jeffry Netter. 1989. “Restrictions on Short
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Stock Market Crash.” Cornell Law Review 74: 799-835.

About the Authors
Robert Battalio is a professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business; Hamid Mehran is
an assistant vice president in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group; Paul Schultz is the John and
Maude Clarke Professor of Finance at the Mendoza College of Business.
Current Issues in Economics and Finance is published by the Research and Statistics Group of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Linda Goldberg and Thomas Klitgaard are the editors.
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