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We Witnessed a Financial ‘Storming of the Bastille’ on Wall Street This Week

AP Photo/Richard Drew


Harrison is a good friend of the Triggered Podcast and his tweet pretty much sums what’s happening on Wall Street: “Populism is contagious.” Yes, a few smart randos on a Reddit thread, ‘wallstreetbets,’ decided to exercise their right to free speech and only boost the stock price of GameStop through the roof. It cost hedge fund firms, who were trying to keep the price low, tons of money—billions of dollars were just roasted. If you need a visual comparison, think the Joker lighting that mountain of money on fire in The Dark Knight. Some hedge funds got wiped out. I have another media reference for what’s happening—sort of—and it centers on the ending of Trading Places with Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy manipulating the market of frozen concentrate orange juice. It’s that scene, but in reverse—and yes, those margin calls can be quite steep. They have been quite steep. As a Mets fan, I know new owner Steve Cohen, who serves as the basis for the character Bobby Axelrod on Showtime’s Billions, will be okay. That doesn’t negate the fact that his hedge fund lost a ton of money in the past few days.  


Look, a few small-time guys are beating Wall Street. They’re making some money—and the big wigs aren’t happy. The power of the people is screwing the folks who are rigging the system. And now, that’s a problem. How dare the little guy make some scratch by conducting some trades? How dare they? This is our playground. Well, everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth. So far, some of the stocks targeted for this money train ride are AMC Theaters, Nokia, GameStop, and a couple of others. It’s a financial ‘storming of the Bastille,’ which I wholeheartedly endorse. Even Barstool's Dave Portnoy is getting in on the action (via NYT):

A real estate salesman in Valparaiso, Ind. A former line cook from the Bronx. An evangelical pastor and his wife in Huntington Beach, Calif. A high school student in the Milwaukee suburbs.

They are among the millions of amateur traders collectively taking on some of Wall Street’s most sophisticated investors — and, for the moment at least, winning. Propelled by a mix of greed and boredom, gleefully determined to teach Wall Street a lesson, and turbocharged by an endless flow of get-rich-quick hype and ideas delivered via social media, these investors have piled into trades around several companies, pushing their stock prices to stratospheric levels.


On Wall Street, individual investors are often derided as “dumb money,” destined to lose against the highly compensated analysts and traders who buy and sell stocks for a living. But in recent days, individual investors — many of them followers of a popular, juvenile, foul-mouthed Reddit page called Wall Street Bets — have upended that narrative by banding together to put the squeeze on at least two hedge funds that had bet that GameStop’s shares would fall.

While the hedge funds and other professional money managers had been shorting GameStop’s shares, betting that its stock was doomed to further decline, the retail investors — online traders, mom-and-pop investors, small brokers and others — have been pushing the other way, buying shares and stock options. That caused GameStop’s market value to increase to over $24 billion from $2 billion in a matter of days. Its shares have risen over 1,700 percent since December. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the market value rose over $10 billion.


Ben Patte, 16, a high school student in Wisconsin who said he made $750 off GameStop stock, said the campaign felt like vindication for himself and fellow young traders. “It’s a good opportunity to make money and stick it to the hedge funds,” he said. “By buying GameStop, it’s kind of like beating them at their own game.”

No one knows how this ends. Some analysts say the intense activity could eventually prompt a wider sell-off in the market by forcing hedge funds on the losing side of these trades to sell parts of their portfolios to raise cash to cover their losses.

Yeah, those poor billionaires. How will they ever live now? Also, it’s hilarious to see the NASDAQ CEO make suggestions that trading be halted so the elites can recalibrate their standing in the market. This right here is one of the many reasons why Trump won. Believe it or not, there are significant Trump and Bernie supporters who feel the economic system is rigged and the elites are trash. Well, this is exhibit A in that regard. Also, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) husband bought $50,000 in stocks that weren’t disclosed. But it’s okay—she’s willing to pay a fine. Two separate rules, except it’s between the wealthy and well-connected and the little guys. 

Best of luck, guys. Keep making them pay. 


UPDATE: The Elites Fight Back

Well, all good things come to an end. Yet, that usually doesn’t come with a hefty side of corruption. As Leah wrote this morning, Robinhood app, which allows ordinary folks to participate in the stock market, pretty much froze trading on the stocks being targeted by WallStreetBets by removing those companies from the app. Again, how dare the little guy make some money after using the very same pump and dump schemes the big hedge funds use. How dare they? And then, the elite strikes back like this by limiting Robinhood app users' participation in the market—and people wonder why populism is on the rise. Why Trump won. And why folks act crazy at times. We all talk about market manipulation. This is it in its purest, most corrupt form.


These elite hogs set off a dirty bomb inside Wall Street today. It's a total and complete atrocity. 


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