The SEC's Short-Sale Experiment: Evidence on Causal Channels and Reassessment of Indirect Effects

51 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2020 Last revised: 15 Dec 2023

Date Written: April 2, 2023

Abstract

During 2005-2007, the SEC conducted a randomized trial in which it removed short-sale restrictions from one-third of the Russell 3000 firms. Early studies found modest market microstructure effects of removing the restrictions but no effect on short interest, stock returns, volatility or price efficiency. More recently, many studies have attributed a wide range of indirect outcomes to this experiment, mostly without assessing the causal channels for those outcomes. We examine the three most often cited causal channels for these indirect effects: short interest, returns and managerial fear. We find no evidence to support these channels. We then reexamine the principal findings in four recent studies using a sample that closely matches the actual experiment and a common research design and find minimal support for the reported indirect effects. Our findings highlight the importance of confirming a causal channel or an economic mechanism and show that sample selection and specification choices can produce statistical significance even without an underlying economic mechanism.

Keywords: natural experiments; causal channels; specification choice; Regulation SHO; SEC experiment

Suggested Citation

Black, Bernard S. and Desai, Hemang and Litvak, Kate and Yoo, Woongsun and Yu, Jeff Jiewei, The SEC's Short-Sale Experiment: Evidence on Causal Channels and Reassessment of Indirect Effects (April 2, 2023). Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper 20-06, SMU Cox School of Business Research Paper No. 20-06, European Corporate Governance Institute – Finance Working Paper No. 813/2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3657196 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3657196

Bernard S. Black (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-2784 (Phone)

Hemang Desai

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Accounting Department ( email )

United States
214-768-3185 (Phone)
214-768-4099 (Fax)

Kate Litvak

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Woongsun Yoo

Central Michigan University ( email )

Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
United States

Jeff Jiewei Yu

University of Arizona ( email )

School of Accountancy
Eller College of Management
Tucson, AZ 85721
United States
520-621-1273 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://accounting.eller.arizona.edu/people/jeff-jiewei-yu

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