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Iridium shares up for grabs on eBay

Bidding starts at $6500 for 1300 shares -- but is it legal?

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With trading in Iridium stock officially suspended pending the troubled satellite cellphone company's move out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, canny shareholders are being approached with an alternative way of selling their shares. Nasdaq halted trading in Iridium shares last Friday. One enterprising trader yesterday suggested Iridium shareholders offer their shares through online auctioneer eBay. "You might want to sell them on eBay. They could have market value on an auction, or numismatic if [Iridium] tanks completely," suggested a posting on Yahoo!'s Iridium shareholders bulletin board. And today an Iridium shareholder apparently based in Phoenix, Arizona stepped in to offer 1300 shares via the online auctionhouse. The bidding starts at $6500. Would be owners have, at press time, nine days and eleven hours to place their bids. Private, person-to-person share trading is, of course, perfectly legal, and that's true even if trading in shares has been suspended by public markets, such as Nasdaq. However, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to rule whether auctioning shares online counts as a private or a public sale. If it's the latter, Iridium shareholders would be forbidden from selling their shares this way. The eBay sale is marked a "private auction", but since that just means bidders identities are protected from view, it's unclear whether it counts legally. Still, given the problems eBay itself has been having of late with servers falling down, it might not be the ideal platform for selling shares in a potentially plummeting satellite service. ®

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