Prior to the 1982 SEC ruling that rolled back restrictions on open-market share repurchasing, companies buying back their shares potentially faced civil and criminal penalties for manipulating markets.

“The growth of stock buybacks can be traced to 1982, when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relaxed the rules governing the circumstances in which companies could be held liable for manipulating the market for their own gain. Before 1982, companies buying back their shares potentially faced civil and criminal penalties for manipulating the markets. However, the SEC made the rules around buybacks more lax, creating greater leeway for buyback activity that fell within broad timing and volume parameters, essentially shielding companies from civil or criminal liability for such activity. This gave corporate executives license to buy back company shares with minimal threat of enforcement for market manipulation from the SEC (Palladino 2018).”

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