It’s a sure bet that some small investors who get in too late and wager too much will take bad losses. But for those either actively in on these Reddit-led trades or living vicariously through them, the potential downside isn’t diluting the comic thrill of the moment, or the sense that there’s still a modicum of justice to be squeezed out of an unequal economy run by rapacious speculators.
Throughout Thursday, stock exchanges, government regulators and retail apps like Robinhood were looking to squelch this volatile trading energy. Several platforms have indefinitely halted trading on companies popular with the insurgent internet conglomerate. Robinhood alone put a pause on GameStop, AMC, Nokia, BlackBerry, American Airlines and Bed Bath & Beyond — a move that angered millions of users. “What do you call a market that removes retail investors’ ability to buy to save institutional investors’ shorts?” a Twitter account run by the moderators of r/WallStreetBets posted.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, whose rapid political ascent was a product of the internet, sided with the aggrieved small investors. On Twitter, she called trading platforms’ halts “unacceptable” and pledged to “support a hearing if necessary.” Her fellow Progressive Caucus member, Representative Ro Khanna, who represents much of Silicon Valley, agreed, as did some Republicans. And a federal class-action lawsuit has been filed against Robinhood in the Southern District of New York.
Early Thursday evening, as further pressure mounted, Robinhood announced that it planned “to allow limited buys of these securities,” though it didn’t delve into specifics. And so, as with any revolution, this one has become very messy.
Shares in GameStop, which have taken a hit, remained high on Thursday relative to share prices at the start of the month. But as voices in the business press and large institutional investors talk down the Reddit-led movement, momentum for most of the other major picks — referred to by many as “meme stocks” — has stalled out.
Still, a quick perusal of message boards or the humbler corners of finance Twitter suggest that whether GameStop itself lives or dies now is beside the point. The push to “hold the line” is premised on schadenfreude as much as anything else, on raising the hackles of a condescending establishment. For some, the money that’s already been taken is victory enough.
“I can now write my mom a check and put my sister through lymes treatment,” a Redditor named Stammbomb wrote in a post on Wednesday, next to a screenshot showing a 349 percent return to his $64,000 Robinhood account. “This has been a very rough year, but I’m so thankful for every single one of you.”