Updated: Feb 1
Recently, you might have heard that a team of retail investors drove the price of Gamestop—the brick and mortar seller of video games and consoles—from $20 per share to a whopping $313 over the span of sixteen days. That's a climb of 1,700%. This spike was the byproduct of amateur investors strategizing through public forums like Reddit, Discord, and Stocktwits. Given the irrational growth, hedge funds eagerly attempted to short the stock, or profit from its decline, but were dismayed when these blue collar traders collectively rallied to prompt a short squeeze and drive the share price to new heights. Hedge funds have thus far lost hundreds of billions to cheeky college students advertising their tactics in public channels. Technical analysis and Bloomberg software would appear to be inferior to a well-oiled Reddit subpage. How humiliating.
For these amateurs, financial reward was auxiliary to exposing the market as a slanted system favoring the wealthy and connected. Ironically, the amateurs have been applauded by pundits and public figures like Elon Musk, Dave Portnoy, and Chamath Palihapitiya. More so, these "take from the rich" investors—or "Merrymen" as endearingly referred to by Jim Cramer—have affiliated themselves with investment platforms intent on democratizing finance through commission-free trading. Of these, Robinhood was the most revered and aptly named...up until this morning when CEO Vladimir Tenev abandoned his Merrymen and morals. For the entire trading day, Tenev denied his users the ability to purchase over a dozen notable securities, including Gamestop, allowing Wall Street to reposition and retaliate against the now helpless amateurs. The abrupt onset of such unanticipated and specific restrictions suggests external pressure and manipulation. Political figures like Senator Ted Cruz and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—polar opposites on the political spectrum—have expressed their willingness to pursue a federal investigation. To add insult to injury, Robinhood disseminated several updates stating that the restrictions were made in the interest of its investors, effectively implying their naivete to the dangers of the speculative rise. And yet Tenev knew better.