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Judd Bagley
05/17/10.9:36.AM

Analysis One of the great episodes of The Simp...

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On Wall Street, Membership Has Its Privileges - Just Ask Deutsche Bank

by Judd Bagley, Published: May 17th, 2010 9:37 AM CDT

One of the great episodes of The Simpsons follows Homer as he comes to realize that not all Springfield citizens are treated equally.

The difference, Homer eventually discovers, is membership in a secret society known as the Stonecutters. Once on the inside, Homer is delighted to find his new affiliation subjects him to an enviable set of alternate rules.

Obviously, this is parody, but it succeeds because it’s based on a truth to which we can all relate: the belief that status bestows disproportionate advantage upon a privileged few – up to and including license to engage in illegal behavior.

Homer and the Stonecutters immediately came to mind upon learning that, from 2005 through 2009, Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) selectively disabled a system intended to block customers’ short sale orders when placed without valid locates, while the Fidelity-affiliated National Financial Securities (NFS) achieved the same end by creating an entirely separate system for certain customers disinterested in compliance with the rules governing how the rest of us can trade.

Shorting shares that have neither been borrowed nor, at a minimum, located for eventual borrowing, is an illegal and manipulative practice and the essence of naked short selling; and yet, Deutsche Bank and NFS decided certain customers were entitled to do it.

Back in 2006, small-time hedge fund manager Jeff Matthews announced he doubted naked shorting was possible because he didn’t know how to do it. In reality, the thing Matthews didn’t know (possibly to his credit) was the secret knock used to gain entrance to the mega-hedge fund speakeasy, where the real debauchery goes on.

Why should Matthews and others be excluded?

The better question is: why should…

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