The anarchic traders of Reddit stunned stock-markets this week, boosting the share price of struggling retailer GameStop by some 400 per cent.
It’s the latest stunt from WallStreetBets – an infamous Reddit page for novice millennial traders (which was featured in The Spectator last February).
But who are the Redditors behind the great Wall Street coup? Here’s what we know:
The initial interest in GameStop has been credited to YouTuber and Redditor ‘RoaringKitty’ who has been plugging the stock as a value buy since September 2019, just after its shares slumped to an all-time low of $3.32.
Having purportedly made 50 per cent on his initial investment of $50,000, RoaringKitty made another video – in August 2020 – speculating that the stock could go as high as $50. Wall Street analysts, who continued to short the stock, evidently disagreed.
Of course, it was RoaringKitty who had the last laugh, posting a celebratory video in which he dipped chicken tenders (one of many forum in-jokes) in champagne. The stock had rocketed to more than $300, with RoaringKitty’s investment (which he’d presumably topped up) apparently worth more than $40m.
In the wake of his windfall, RoaringKitty, who posts on Reddit as DeepF***ingValue, has since been identified by the media as Keith Patrick Gill, a 34-year-old from Massachusetts who, until recently, worked as a financial adviser.
Quite wisely, Gill has shunned requests for comment. Although experts say that, provided he hasn’t deceived his followers into buying the stock, he probably hasn’t broken any laws. Though he could be in line for one hell of a tax bill.
Dave Portnoy (Image: Getty)
If there’s one person who is responsible for the outbreak of hyber-bullish millennial investors, it’s probably 43-year-old Dave Portnoy. The internet entrepreneur has become famous online for his optimistic approach to trading, embodied in his tongue-in-cheek catchphrase ‘stocks can only go up’.
It’s an approach Portnoy put to the test when he decided to choose his next investment by picking random Scrabble tiles out of a bag – getting ‘RTX’. The stock in question, defence contractor Raytheon, dipped nine per cent after Portnoy’s $200,000 investment.
A passionate day-trader, Portnoy has said he was heavily backing Nokia and AMC this week – two of the so-called ‘meme stocks’ that WallStreetBets boosted. He’s also been highly critical of trading platform RobinHood for halting the trading frenzy.
‘When you have AOC and Donald Trump Jr. both on the same side of an issue, you know something is dramatically wrong,’ he told Fox News last week.
For all the fuss about hacking Wall Street and crashing hedge funds, WallStreetBets was originally intended to be something more benign in nature: a simple forum for trading tips.
Or at least that’s according to its founder – 39-year-old Jamie Rogozinski, who set-up WallStreetBets in 2012 after becoming tired of the cautious groupthink which had become prevalent within online investing communities.
Rogozinki’s original vision was for an online community where users could discuss short-term, higher-risk trading strategies, without incurring judgement from those more conventional investors focusing on building a longer-term nest egg.
It was a move which coincided perfectly with the internet’s renewed fixation with ‘day trading’: as a wave of free-to-use apps made it easier than ever before for would-be traders to try their luck buying and selling shares.
Though Rogozinski has since left the forum, he has written a book about the phenomenon, with the rather fitting strapline ‘How Boomers Made the World’s Biggest Casino for Millennials.’ As to how his own bets have fared, the father of two remains tight-lipped.
You may well have already heard of Martin Shkreli: the jailed hedge funder who gained notoriety for allegedly purchasing drug companies and jacking up the prices of sought-after medicines.
In a recent correspondence with his penpal girlfriend, still-imprisoned Shkreli appears to confirm rumours that he was not only an early member of WallStreetBets but one of its moderators too. He also gave his thoughts on the GameStop surge: ‘LOL this thing is so nuts.’
Though a major hate figure on some parts of the internet, Shkreli is often referred to as ‘hero’ by WallStreetBets members. Is that because of his lavish spending habits rather than unscrupulous business tactics? Or is it just more internet irony?
As with all things Reddit, it’s impossible to know for sure.
If you’ve spent even an hour on WallStreetBets, you’ll know that the forum has its fair share of legendary members – and not always for the right reasons. And none more so than a user called ControlTheNarrative.
Who was ControlTheNarrative? Nobody knows. All that it’s known is that he was allegedly responsible for discovering a glitch within the RobinHood trading app which allowed users to hugely increase their ‘leverage’ – i.e. borrow money – regardless of how much money was in their account.
Using this glitch, ControlTheNarrative was able to effectively borrow more than $40,000 (again a 5 per cent deposit) and lump it all on a one way bet *against* Apple’s stock price just ahead of its next earnings report. Even better, he filmed his reaction as the money disappeared before his eyes.
ControlTheNarrative may have gone, but his story leaves so many unanswered questions. Did RobinHood ever retrieve the money? And what if Apple’s stock had fallen? Just how rich would we have been? Sadly, we will never know.
If you needed a reminder that not everyone on WallStreetBets has struck it rich, you can look to 1R0NYMAN – another anonymous user who thought he had discovered a way to bag ‘risk free money’.
By constructing a box spread – a complex trading strategy which involves using overlapping ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ options at once – 1RONYMAN assumed he would win either way. What he hadn’t bargained for, though, is that he might be forced to honour the losing contracts ahead of time.
This oversight, combined with RobinHood’s rather complicated leverage rules, led to him incurring a staggering 1832 per cent loss against his original $5,000 deposit. 1RONYMAN’s trading account was promptly suspended; but he remained at liberty to enjoy his newfound fame on WallStreetBets.
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