On August 17, 2009, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission re-opened the comment period on its proposals respecting short sales first published in April. The comment period was extended to allow for supplemental comments on an alternative uptick rule that was not previously specifically subject to the request for comments. In April, the SEC sought comments on proposals that represented two approaches to imposing restrictions on short selling; the first to apply on a market-wide and permanent basis and the second during severe market declines only. With respect to the proposed market-wide and permanent rules, two alternative short sale price tests were proposed. The first was based on the current national best bid (proposed modified uptick rule) and the second based on the last sale price (proposed uptick rule). While the April proposals did not specifically seek comments on the alternative uptick rule, which would permit short selling only at a price at or higher than the current national best bid, it did enquire whether it would be preferable to the proposed modified uptick rule and the proposed uptick rule.
Under the alternative uptick rule, in an advancing or declining market, short selling would generally only be permitted at an increment above the current national best bid. The alternative uptick rule proposal is slightly different from April's proposed modified uptick rule (and the proposed uptick rule), in that only allowing short selling at an increment above the national best bid would not allow short sale to get immediate execution and would, therefore, restrict short selling to a greater extent than the other two proposed rules. It would not, however, require monitoring the sequence of bids or last sale prices. According to the SEC’s press release, this alternative uptick rule would, as a result, be easier to monitor. The comment period for the proposal will extend for 30 days from the date of publication of the proposal in the Federal Register.