The U.S. securities watchdog is looking into the affair of Robinhood and the Redditors.
At least in so many words. The Securities and Exchange Commission made a joint statement on Friday expressing concern over the “extreme price volatility of certain stocks’ trading prices over the past several days.”
Though the commission didn’t use the words “GameStop,” “Robinhood,” or “Reddit,” it’s obvious that what the commission is talking about is the recent chaos surrounding the three. It’s already attracted major regulatory pressure. The SEC did, however, specify:
“The Commission will closely review actions taken by regulated entities that may disadvantage investors or otherwise unduly inhibit their ability to trade certain securities.”
Robinhood, already the subject of enormous backlash from its users, is clearly in the sights of this announcement, as it is the “regulated entity” i.e. broker-dealer at the heart of the news. It is not unprecedented for Robinhood to shut down trading on GME and other stocks, but the firm’s shutting off of sales but not buys provoked mass ire from investors and casual observers.
At the same time, many point to r/WallStreetBets, the Reddit group united in buying and holding Gamestop, as an example of classic market manipulation or other securities law violations in a new media venue. Marc Powers, formerly of the SEC’s enforcement office and currently an adjunct professor on blockchain regulation at Florida International University, defended this view, but put forward alternatives to classic enforcement:
“Another way of approaching this issue, rather than going after individuals, is to issue a 21(a) report as a way of providing guidance to the marketplace and these generally newer investors as to the SEC’s view on market manipulation and other laws that may have been applicable to the situation, similar to what the SEC did with the issuance of the DAO report involving ICO in July 2017.”
Powers was referring to the SEC’s initial entry into initial coin offerings, which refrained from enforcement at the time but did result in a mass clampdown on subsequent ICOs.
But, maybe it’s a result of a House, Senate and Presidency suddenly under Democratic rule and eager to roll back the pro-Wall Street legacy of the past four years, but very few at the federal level are seriously talking about doing anything about the redditors.