Saturday, October 24

Learning to love insider trading

A GMU economist defends it in the WSJ...
It's Halloween season, and the scariest demons in the world of business are insider traders, lurking behind every stockbroker's desk and four-star restaurant banquette. They whisper dark corporate secrets into the ears of venal speculators, and inflict pain and agony upon ordinary investors.

Time to stop telling horror stories. Federal agents are wasting their time slapping handcuffs on hedge fund traders like Raj Rajaratnam, the financier charged last week with trading on nonpublic information involving IBM, Google and other big companies. The reassuring truth: Insider trading is impossible to police and helpful to markets and investors. Parsing the difference between legal and illegal insider trading is futile—and a disservice to all investors. Far from being so injurious to the economy that its practice must be criminalized, insiders buying and selling stocks based on their knowledge play a critical role in keeping asset prices honest—in keeping prices from lying to the public about corporate realities.

Prohibitions on insider trading prevent the market from adjusting as quickly as possible to changes in the demand for, and supply of, corporate assets. The result is prices that lie.

And when prices lie, market participants are misled into behaving in ways that harm not only themselves but also the economy writ large.

(ht Mankiw)

Addendum: Prof. Bainbridge disagrees

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive