What's the Harm in Issuer-Licensed Insider Trading?
16 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2014 Last revised: 28 Oct 2015
Date Written: August 15, 2014
There is growing support for the claim that issuer-licensed insider trading (when the insider’s firm approves the trade in advance and has disclosed that it permits such trading pursuant to published guidelines) is economically efficient, and morally harmless. But for the last 35 years many scholars and the U.S. Supreme Court have relied on “The Law of Conservation of Securities” to rebut claims that insider trading can be victimless. This law is purported to show that every act of insider trading, even those licensed by the issuer, causes an identifiable harm to someone. This essay argues that the Law of Conservation of Securities is not helpful to answering the moral question of whether insider trading is a victimless crime because it either proves too much or too little. It either proves that all profitable trades (or profitable trade omissions) in advance of firms’ material disclosures are morally impermissible (an absurdity), or it tells us nothing at all about the moral permissibility of such trades. Of course, once the Law of Conservation of Securities is neutralized, other moral criticisms of issuer-licensed insider trading that rely on this law also fail. Professor Leo Katz’s claim that morality does not permit one to consent to a system that openly allows issuer-licensed insider trading is offered as one example of an argument that fails once considered in light of a proper understanding of the Law of Conservation of Securities.
Keywords: Securities Regulation, Insider Trading, White Collar Crime, Fraud, Ethics, Morality, Utilitarianism, Deontology, Wang, Katz, Inalienability, Inalienable
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