Trump media shares gain as it suggests 'potential market manipulation'

FILE PHOTO: The Truth social network logo is seen displayed behind a woman holding a smartphone in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) -Shares of Donald Trump's media and technology company rose over 3% on Friday after it asked the Nasdaq exchange to help prevent alleged market manipulation in its shares by so-called "naked" short sellers.

Trump Media & Technology Group wrote to Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman alerting the exchange to "potential market manipulation" in the stock, it disclosed in a Friday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Trump Media shares have been highly volatile and in recent days have hovered at nearly half their March 26 debut closing price of $57.99.

In the letter, Trump Media CEO and former Congressman Devin Nunes suggested "naked" short-selling was to blame.

Short selling involves borrowing a stock to sell it on the expectation the price will fall, then repurchasing the shares and pocketing the difference.

"Naked" short-selling, which is generally illegal in the United States, involves selling shares without first borrowing them or determining they can be borrowed, creating the risk the seller may not be able to deliver the shares.

"Reports indicate that, as of April 3, 2024, DJT was 'by far' the most expensive U.S. stock to short," meaning that brokers have a significant financial incentive to lend non-existent shares," Nunes said in the letter, citing a CNBC report from April 3.

He did not provide evidence of naked short selling but noted that as of April 17, DJT was on Nasdaq's Reg SHO threshold list, which he said is "indicative of unlawful trading activity."

That list comprises securities that have failed to clear for five consecutive settlement days, which can indicate naked short-selling or administrative or technical issues.

Nunes did not accuse any specific firms or individuals of naked short selling but noted that "data made available to us indicate that just four market participants have been responsible for over 60% of the extraordinary volume of DJT shares traded: Citadel Securities, Virtu Americas, G1 Execution Services and Jane Street Capital."

A spokesperson for market maker Citadel said Nunes was trying "to blame 'naked short selling' for his falling stock price," adding that integrity was central to everything Citadel does.

Virtu Americas, G1 Execution Services and Jane Street Capital did not immediately provide any comment.

Nasdaq did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

A Nasdaq spokesperson told CNBC the exchange is "committed to the principles of liquidity, transparency, and integrity in all our markets."

"We have long been an advocate of transparency in short-selling and have been an active supporter of the SEC's rules and enforcement efforts designed to monitor and prohibit naked short-selling," the spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Zaheer Kachwala in Bengaluru and Carolina Mandl in New York; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar, Michelle Price and Richard Chang)

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