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The fascinating story about when some redditors took on Wall Street

Written By: - Date published: 7:26 pm, January 29th, 2021 - 22 comments
Categories: capitalism, Financial markets, internet, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, uncategorized - Tags:

The world has been watching, mostly with amusement, as some redditors have brought a Wall Street merchant bank to its knees, by buying stocks in a company, GameStop who has seen better days and whose business model is antiquated.

Members of the r/WallStreetBets subreddit saw that a hedge fund had taken a really aggressive short position on GameStop shares and have been buying shares to drive the price up.  This has hurt hedge fund Melvin Capital and others who had entered into contracts to purchase shares in the company in the future at a price lower than the then current share price, betting that the share value would reduce.  When the share price spiked these contracts became really expensive and the underlying presumption proved to be expensively wrong.

This anonymous commentator explains things clearly:

The Guardian has this further description:

The battle has become a war of attrition between a new generation of investors and established, more diversified players.

Investors on the WallStreetBets subreddit forum have been promoting GameStop aggressively, with many pitching it as a battle of regular people versus hedge funds and big Wall Street firms.

“This is quite the experience for my first month in the stock market. Holding till infinity,” posted one user on the thread. Another user said: “We’re literally more powerful than the big firms right now.”

In some cases, they’ve been right, with larger investors like Citron Research taking a sharp lesson in what can happen when “herd investors” squeeze a stock higher.

Citron’s founder, Andrew Left, called GameStop a “failing mall-based retailer” in a report earlier this month and then predicted that the stock would plunge to $20 in a video he posted to Twitter on Thursday.

According to CNN, Left has now given up on shorting the stock, citing harassment by the stock’s backers.

Derivative trading can really hurt.  Just ask Auckland Council if you want an example.

And for a description of the general mode of behaviour displayed by Wall Street over the past couple of decades this video about different investment techniques practised by Wall Street this clip from the Big Short is very informative as well as entertaining.  And it shows how dangerous derivatives and derivatives of derivatives can be, as Melvin Capital is finding out.

And money is being made.  Volatility in stock prices opens up all sorts of opportunities.  To cover its position Melvin Capital has had to buy shares at horrendously inflated prices.  Canny investors have done very well, aided and abetted by the internet collective.

Wall Street is not taking it well.

For a contrary view:

The powers that be are trying to change the way that retail stock buying apps made and there are attempts to silence the subreddit.  Which is weird because capitalists always claims that free market capitalism is best.

For instance Robinhood, whose website proudly states that “[a]t Robinhood, we believe the financial system should be built to work for everyone” and how they are on a mission to democratize finance is not quite living up to their goal of allowing the little person an unfettered ability to trade in shares, just like the big guys.

Robinhood and others have put a hold on trading of the stocks.  The move just goes to confirm that Wall Street is for the elite only, not for everyone.

This example really shows the power of the internet and group action.  And the fallacy that the capitalist system constitutes a free unfettered market.

22 comments on “The fascinating story about when some redditors took on Wall Street ”

  1. Adrian Thornton 1

    Great story…and I see elements of your beloved cancel culture is already being touted as the answer to stop this ever happening again…

    Wall Street Elites REGULATE, DEPLATFORM Redditors Who BEAT THEM On GameStop

  2. Pat 2

    You neglect to note (or perhaps dont realise) that that a proportion of those retail investors are likely to end up holding shares they paid well over the odds for….fun sticking it to the man, if you can afford it

    • Phil 2.1

      Yeah, this is a really important point. There are a lot of small investors who have purchased GameStop stock 'for teh lolz' at prices far exceeding any reasonable valuation. They're all going to take an absolute bath in the coming weeks.

      There are almost certainly a few large investment firms quietly taking on those short positions vacated by Melvin Capital and settling in for a quick windfall.

  3. Forget now 3

    Yeh! Now this is a putdown:

    Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter on Thursday (28 January) to condemn the app Robinhood, which banned users from purchasing Gamestop stock…

    Cruz quote tweeted her to say that he “fully agreed” with her suggestion that Robinhood should be investigated, AOC was having none of it.

    She responded: “I am happy to work with Republicans on this issue where there’s common ground, but you almost had me murdered three weeks ago so you can sit this one out.

    “Happy to work with almost any other GOP that aren’t trying to get me killed. In the meantime if you want to help, you can resign.”


  4. Pat 4

    "Around 10% of all trades (by value) made via Sharesies over the past two weeks involve GameStop shares."


  5. KSaysHi 5

    In the normal course of business Robinhood sells data to Citidel, among others which is how they make bank.

    Citidel will bail out Melvin Capital.

    Then, Robinhood allows selling, but not buying which effectively drives the price downwards and saving Citidel a ton of money.

    • Pat 5.1

      already have

      "New owner Steve Cohen’s hedge fund, Point72 Asset Management, invested $750 million alongside a $2 billion investment from Citadel into Melvin Capital – which held a short position on the GameStop stock and suffered huge losses before closing out of the stock by Wednesday morning."


      • KSaysHi 5.1.1

        That's not what I meant.

        Robinhood doesn't place the trades, they onsell them to Citidel etc (market makers). So this means that Citidel and other market makers could see what was happening. For all we know they may have even opted to hasten the demise of Melvin so they could profit from what is a highly successful hedge fund. Citidel ensured they became part owners in Melvin as part of the bail out conditions.

        Anyway, Citidel could see those trades being placed on Robinhood and decided rather than losing more money they would prevent those using the Robinhood platform from profiting by preventing trades.


        – if you must use Robinhood, for goodness sake place limit orders rather than buy orders so you aren't immediately front run

        – find other platforms. International Brokers, AmeriTrade, eTrade…there are plenty of options and a fee is minor considering what you lose in privacy.

  6. Bazza64 6

    This is great fun to watch the smaller traders make the big boys squirm. Short squeezes have usually been funded by a large investor buying up stock to hurt another trader they know that has shorted a stock, but which may also end up costing them too.

    This cost will be shared among traders (some who may have made good money already getting in & out quickly) & most will likely lose most of the money they put in, but will have enjoyed it all for the entertainment (& provided they didn't trade too much dollar value)

    It is a bit like the unionisation of smaller investors & just like unions acting on behalf of individual workers who have no power on their own, together they wield huge power & large hedge funds shorting shares has probably changed forever because of this.

    Despite the mayhem, I believe this is a good thing & there will be much hand wringing to try & stop this sort of behaviour. Don't forget in the past when the big boys made massive losses the government stepped in to bail them out, but they kept the profits of hugely risky bets. The power dynamic has now changed.

    • Pat 6.1

      "This cost will be shared among traders (some who may have made good money already getting in & out quickly) & most will likely lose most of the money they put in, but will have enjoyed it all for the entertainment (& provided they didn't trade too much dollar value)"

      Shared?…I think not. I wonder how many realised what the risks were, how much was euphoria and how much was pure manipulation of the crowd for personal profit….there will be losers but it wont be shared.

    • RedBaronCV 6.2

      I been tempted to throw in a few hundred dollars knowing it could all be lost. But the entertainment value! This is better than "Wall Street" the movie.

      It's a bit like going to the races – take your $20 lose it and see that as the price of a good day out. If you are lucky you may win but not a given. Funny how much pontificating is going on aimed at a crowd of small investors. The big boys seem to miss the lecture but they are facing a "ride or die" crowd.

  7. kejo 7

    Oh No, now we have to rerig the system !!

  8. Lucy 8

    You may like to consider most of our super funds use these traders so if they lose their shirts so does our retirement funds. So whilst it is fun watching Merrell Lynch take a bath we lose both ways as they are "too big to fail" and our super is ravaged

    • Brigid 8.1

      So its time to lobby those managing your super funds and insist that they stop using these traders for obvious reasons.

    • Phil 8.2

      Literally everything in your post is a misunderstanding of markets, flat out wrong, misspelled, or some combination of all three.

  9. KSaysHi 9

    The real fun happens if the brokering firms default which looks likely. That's when the lawsuits happen.

    Personally I think it's a bit much to blame retirement savings losses on WSBts as this ignores the ridiculous P/E ratios, companies that lose millions a year being treated as blue chips, and lets not forget the toxic derivative nightmare lurking in the background. The markets were always rigged in favor of the big players, and to paraphrase Eric Sprott the rest of us are the plankton of the financial world.

  10. joe90 10

    If shoe shine boys are giving stock tips, then it's time to get out of the market


    Yeah! WSB's, un-doer of wall street fat cats…and thousands of desperate, ordinary folk who've done their dough….

    Tulips, anyone?


    A YouTube streamer who helped drive a surge in the shares of GameStop is a 34-year-old financial advisor from Massachusetts and until recently worked for insurance giant MassMutual, public records and social media posts show.

    Keith Patrick Gill is the person behind the Roaring Kitty YouTube streams which, along with a string of posts by Reddit user DeepF***ingValue, helped attract a flood of retail cash into GameStop, burning hedge funds who had bet against the company and roiling the broader market.

    In his social media messages and videos, Gill repeatedly made the bull case for the beleaguered bricks-and-mortar retailer and shared images of his trading account profit on the stock, sparking a following of like-minded GameStop enthusiasts.


    After online brokerages restricted trading in GME on Thursday, Gill posted that he had lost $14.8 million that day alone, but was still up $33 million overall.

    That post was met with thousands of replies, with many simply repeating: “IF HE’S STILL IN, I’M STILL IN.”


    • joe90 10.1

      For instance Robinhood, whose website proudly states that “[a]t Robinhood, we believe the financial system should be built to work for everyone” and how they are on a mission to democratize finance is not quite living up to their goal of allowing the little person an unfettered ability to trade in shares, just like the big guys.

      From 2017

      Commission-free trading startup Robinhood has raised $110 million in a round led by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s investment group DST Global, valuing the company at $1.3 billion.

      Greenoaks Capital and Thrive Capital, the venture capital firm founded by Josh Kushner, also invested, the company said on Wednesday. Kushner is the brother of Jared Kushner, a senior adviser and son-in-law to U.S. President Donald Trump.

      Existing investors Index Ventures, NEA and Ribbit Capital participated in the round, which brings the total raised by the startup to $176 million.


  11. Didn't John Key make his money in derivatives trading?

    Enough said!

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