Stock exchanges now are maintaining lists of companies that can't be shorted, and perhaps fittingly, the "no-short" lists keep getting longer and longer — and they are adding some unexpected names.
This week, almost 100 companies have been added to the New York Stock Exchange's list of stocks traders aren't allowed to short, including some surprising names like tech-services titan IBM and drugstore operator CVS Caremark Corp.
On Sept. 19, the Securities and Exchange Commission temporarily banned short selling of 799 financial stocks, preventing investors from betting they would fall, in order to help shore up confidence. The agency then asked major stock exchanges to draft their own list of stocks that shouldn't be shorted.
The NYSE started with a list of 204 stocks, and that list had grown 299 as of Thursday, and includes many financial firms. But some of the stocks on the no-short list have minimal connections to finance, or an unexpected connection.
NYSE spokesman Scott Peterson said the SEC gave the exchanges a list of seven criteria, and if a company met at least one of them, shorting should be banned. So the NYSE has allowed companies to apply for the no-short list.
"Because time was of the essence and it was a tremendous research project that was involved here, what we did on Sunday was send out a letter to our listed companies asking them to examine the criteria that the SEC has laid out," he said. "If they certified to us that under the criteria laid out by the SEC that they met those criteria, they would be placed on the list."
The Nasdaq Stock Market reviewed its listings at the SEC's request, and added 66 companies to the list over the weekend. Since then, it has used the same process, suggesting companies make contact to ask for placement. It has added eight companies to the list this week and removed three.
The ban is set to expire at midnight on Oct. 2, but the SEC has the option to extend it.
CVS Caremark Corp. was added to the list Thursday. The Woonsocket, R.I., company says was added because of its pharmacy benefits management program and its connection to the insurance industry.
"We have insurance programs through the SilverScripts and Prescription Pathways, which are Medicare Part D programs," spokeswoman Carolyn Castel said in an e-mail. CVS' rivals in prescription benefits management, Medco Health Solutions Inc. and Express Scripts Inc., had already been placed on the NYSE list.
Banks, savings associatons, registered brokers or dealers, U.S. and foreign investment advisers and companies that own or control companies that meet one of those criteria.
International Business Machines met one of the criteria because it has a global financing segment. That business brought in $634 million in revenue in the second quarter, or a little more than 2 percent of IBM's total revenue of $26.2 billion.
SEC spokesman John Nester said the commission's directive covers all companies that do business in one of the sectors, and the the SEC directed the exchanges to select those companies.
Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Steve Halper said even some of the companies on the list are not sure about the process for being listed.
"I have one company that's on the Nasdaq list, and I actually asked today, 'How'd you guys get on that list?' And their response was, 'We don't know,'" he said.