German Regulator Ends Controversial Ban on Wirecard Short Sales

(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s financial markets regulator ended a controversial ban on investors making bets against Wirecard AG shares that it said was needed two months ago to maintain confidence in the country’s stock market.

The global prohibition on investors taking new short positions on Wirecard or increasing existing ones expired at midnight Thursday, BaFin said Friday in a website statement. The ban was the first by the watchdog on a single stock and harks back to the financial crisis, when it targeted naked short sales on 11 financial firms.

The Wirecard ban was imposed Feb. 18 after a series of reports in the Financial Times alleged suspicious accounting practices at the digital payments company, causing the shares to whipsaw. Wirecard rejected those reports and hasn’t been found by the authorities to have engaged in wrongdoing.

Wirecard released a two-page summary last month of findings from law firm Rajah & Tann, which determined that some Singapore employees could face criminal liability for “wrongful accounting recording.”

BaFin’s ban outraged some market participants, mainly hedge funds and short sellers. British hedge fund titan Crispin Odey said in February that the German regulator had opened the door to a potential lawsuit. Last week, a Frankfurt court said it rejected an emergency lawsuit by an investor challenging the ban.

The regulator said this week that it asked Munich prosecutors to investigate unidentified short sellers for suspected market manipulation. BaFin is still examining whether Wirecard met its disclosure obligations in the matter.

Markets in Germany are closed for Good Friday.

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