Gustave Courbet The wave 1870
The craziest thing about the ongoing Robinhood and WallStreetBets saga must be that the former was selling their clients’ positions in GameStop without permission. That’s even worse than halting trading. It’s like your bank selling your home because that pleases them for some reason. Bet a lot of people never knew that Robinhood was just a division of Citadel. Well, they know now.
Also pretty crazy is Janet Yellen receiving $800,000 in “speaking fees” from Citadel but refusing to recuse herself from the case. That could mean Biden needs to find a replacement, fast. Because her ethics agreement appears quite clear on the matter. Then again, she’s gobbled up so many of these fees from so many financial companies that she would be a lame duck Treasury Secretary if the ethics were actually applied and enforced. To be continued.
Politicians are getting involved, and not only to defend Wall Street.
“People have to go to jail, plain and simple.” @stoolpresidente pic.twitter.com/CeVJ5UwwTX
— Douglas (@missionisgreat) January 29, 2021
“In case this was lost on folks, yesterday’s Total Volume on the Nasdaq eclipsed the previous daily record…by 50%!!”
“They are like looters after a hurricane,” seethed Andrew Cuomo, then-Attorney General of New York State, who “promised to intensify investigations into short selling abuses.”
• Suck It, Wall Street (Matt Taibbi)
In the fall of 2008, America’s wealthiest companies were in a pickle. Short-selling hedge funds, smelling blood as the global economy cratered, loaded up with bets against finance stocks, pouring downward pressure on teetering, hyper-leveraged firms like Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. The free-market purists at the banks begged the government to stop the music, and when the S.E.C. complied with a ban on financial short sales, conventional wisdom let out a cheer. “This will absolutely make a difference,” economist Peter Cardillo told CNN. “Now, if there is any good news, shorts will have to cover.” At the time, poor beleaguered banks were victims, while hedge funds betting them down as the economy circled the drain were seen as antisocial monsters.
“They are like looters after a hurricane,” seethed Andrew Cuomo, then-Attorney General of New York State, who “promised to intensify investigations into short selling abuses.” Senator John McCain, in the home stretch of his eventual landslide loss to Barack Obama, added that S.E.C. chairman Christopher Cox had “betrayed the public’s trust” by allowing “speculators and hedge funds” to “turn our markets into a casino.” Fast forward thirteen years. The day-trading followers of a two-million-subscriber Reddit forum called “wallstreetbets” somewhat randomly decide to keep short-sellers from laying waste to a brick-and-mortar retail video game company called GameStop, betting it up in defiance of the Street. Worth just $6 four months ago, the stock went from $18.36 on the afternoon of the Capitol riot, to $43.03 on the 21st two weeks later, to $147.98 this past Tuesday the 26th, to an incredible $347.51 at the close of the next day, January 27th.
The rally sent crushing losses at short-selling hedge funds like Melvin Capital, which was forced to close out its position at a cost of nearly $3 billion. Just like 2008, down-bettors got smashed, only this time, there were no quotes from economists celebrating the “good news” that shorts had to cover. Instead, polite society was united in its horror at the spectacle of amateur gamblers doing to hotshot finance professionals what those market pros routinely do to everyone else.
Yossi Gestetner on Twitter: “Shorting more stocks than what is available likely means that brokerages double lent shares that they hold. Big chance is @RobinhoodApp did it and could not provide shares for Hedgies who wanted to close their shorts. Hence RH stopped everyone from buying shares. RH needed it!”
• GameStop Soars 75% After-Hours After Robinhood Lifts Trading Ban (ZH)
Gamestop shares began to trade higher after Robinhood folded on its earlier trading ban. The move accelerated after-hours and GME is now up 75%, having erased all the day’s losses… The rally appeared to gain ground as Robinhood CEO appeared on CNBC… “In order to protect the firm and protect our customers we had to limit buying in these stocks,” Tenev told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin Thursday evening. “Robinhood is a brokerage firm, we have lots of financial requirements. We have SEC net capital requirements and clearing house deposits. So that’s money that we have to deposit at various clearing houses. Some of these requirements fluctuate quite a bit based on volatility in the market and they can be substantial in the current environment where there’s a lot of volatility and a lot of concentrated activity in these names that have been going viral on social media,” said Tenev.
Tenev also awkwardly denied there was any existing liquidity issue at the firm and said Robinhood had tapped credit lines as a proactive measure. “We want to put ourselves in a position to allow our customers to be as unrestricted as possible in accordance with the requirements and the regulations,” said Tenev. “So we pulled those credit lines so that we could maximize within reason the funds we have to deposit at the clearinghouses.”
Summary of today’s trading chaos:
GME Stock Rallies After-Hours, Erases Day’s Losses.
Protesters At NYSE & Robinhood HQ; Angry At Discount Brokerage.
Robinhood Draws Down On Credit Lines With Banks.
Citadel Securities Denies It Influenced Robhinhood In Restricting Stock Trading In GME.
Robinhood Releases Statement Saying Stock Trading In GME Restarts Friday.
Robinhood Users Complain Their GME Positions Are Being Sold Without Notice.
Elon Musk Agreed With Congresswoman AOC For Investigation In Robinhood Banning Users From Trading GME.
Barstool’s David Portnoy Starts Twitter Spat With Citadel Point72’s Steve Cohen.
User Sues Robinhood In Southern District of New York For “Removing GME From Platform.”
AOC Livid With Robinhood’s Decision To Place Trade Restrictions On Users; Calls It “Unacceptable.”
Robinhood Confirms Users Having Issues With “Equities, Options, And Crypto” Trading.
Interactive Brokers Put AMC, BB, EXPR, GME, and KOSS Option Trading Into liquidation.
Robinhood Restricts Trading In AMC, BB, BBBY, EXPR, GME, KOSS, NAKD & NOK.
TD Ameritrade Placed GME, AMC On Trade Restrictions.
“Janet Yellen accepted $810,000 in speaking fees from Citadel, owner of Robinhood.
Reporter: Are there any plans to recuse herself from advising the President on GameStop and Robinhood situation?
Psaki: ‘No and she’s an expert and deserves that money.’”
• Janet Yellen Received $810K In Speaking Fees From Hedge Fund (DC)
Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen received more than $800,000 in speaking fees from a hedge fund that has become embroiled in the saga over stock trades for video game retailer GameStop, according to her financial disclosures. Citadel, a hedge fund founded by Ken Griffin, a major GOP donor, paid Yellen $810,000 to speak at several events from October 2019 to October 2020, according to Yellen’s filings with the Office of Government Ethics. The Chicago-based hedge fund paid Yellen $292,500 for a speech on Oct. 17, 2019, $180,000 for one on Dec. 3, 2019, and $337,500 to speak at a series of webinars held from Oct. 9-27, 2020.
Citadel is invested heavily in Melvin Capital, a hedge fund that was reportedly on the brink of bankruptcy this week due to a surge in GameStop share prices. Reddit users on a page called “wallstreetbets” encouraged purchases of GameStop shares in order to exploit Melvin Capital’s short position on the company. A buying spree from retail investors forced Melvin to cover its short position by buying shares of GameStop at elevated prices. Citadel and another firm, 72Point, invested $2.75 billion in Melvin this week after it lost 30% of its capital, according to The Wall Street Journal. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Yellen, who was confirmed by the Senate on Monday, is “monitoring the situation.”
A lot of money even for a hedge fund.
• Losses On Short Positions In US Firms Top $70 Billion (R.)
Short-sellers are sitting on estimated losses of $70.87 billion from their short positions in U.S. companies so far this year, data from financial data analytics firm Ortex showed on Thursday. The hefty losses come as shares of highly-shorted GameStop jumped more than 1,000% in the past week without a clear business reason, forcing short-sellers to buy back into the stock to cover potential losses — defined as a short-squeeze — while retail investors then piled in to benefit from the surge. Chasing shorted companies became a trend among retail traders, rippling across U.S. markets and Europe.
Ortex data showed that as of Wednesday, there were loss-making short positions on more than 5,000 U.S. firms. Its data also showed that estimated losses from shorting GameStop at $1.03 billion year-to-date, while those shorting Bed, Bath & Beyond were looking at a $600 million loss. Ortex said the figures are based on the change in trading prices between the start of January to Wednesday’s close, and the number of short positions. The company sources short interest data from submissions by agent lenders, prime brokers, and broker-dealers.
AMC cashes in on WallStreetBets.
• AMC Entertainment Explores New Capital Raise Amid Stock Surge (MSN)
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc is exploring raising more capital, including through yet another possible stock sale, to weather the COVID-19 pandemic and take advantage of this week’s rally in its shares, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The world’s largest movie theater chain, with about 1,000 cinemas worldwide, suffered unprecedented turmoil after the pandemic last year forced it to temporarily close many venues while attendance dropped at those that remained open. AMC staved off bankruptcy through a debt restructuring deal last summer with its creditors and private equity firm Silver Lake, and a series of other financial transactions in recent months.
AMC said on Monday it had raised $917 million since mid-December through equity and debt issues. “This means that any talk of an imminent bankruptcy for AMC is completely off the table,” Chief Executive Adam Aron said in a statement accompanying disclosure of the additional funds. On Wednesday, AMC said it raised an additional $304.8 million by selling shares this week, cashing in on an unprecedented social media-driven rally powered by amateur traders taking on hedge funds that had shorted its shares. On Thursday, it said Silver Lake and other creditors decided to convert debt holdings to equity in a transaction expected to reduce AMC’s obligations by $600 million.
AMC is considering attempting to raise even more money to capitalize further on the frenzy in its shares, the sources said. While its shares dropped about 57% on Thursday, erasing most of the week’s gains, they are still up more than 300% since the beginning of January. AMC said on Monday its “financial runway has been extended deep into 2021.” Still, it could use proceeds from a new capital raise to further trim its $5.5 billion debt pile as of the end of September, according to the sources.
“The dog caught the car. The losers got to level twelve of a game nobody, including themselves, thought they would get past level four of.”
• GameStop: Intentionally Dying (Chris Arnade)
At the very, very top of our meritocracy is a big game called Wall Street, that the smartest and cleverest get to play, and get paid big bucks for it. They get to choose their character: Trader, Salesperson, Broker, or Lawyer. The traders get to choose their weapon: Stocks, Bonds, Mortgages, Derivatives. Then they are off, navigating different levels, slaying this and that company, currency, or country. Below that is that vast landscape of losers who spend their days building roads, growing food, flipping hamburgers, teaching kids, building small businesses, landscaping yards, and their nights shooting hoops, or reading books, or caring for kids, or going to church. Or, God forbid, playing XBOX or PS4. Those are the worst. A lot of those losers, of every variety but especially the people who play video games, also spend a lot of time on Reddit, or Discord, or Twitch, live-streaming, shitposting, and just having fun.
When they were doing this, some of them noticed that Wall Street was also just a game, and a very profitable one. Sure, it was a little different than Zelda, or Grand Theft Auto, or Demon Souls, but it was a game nonetheless. So they started dipping their toes in and learning this pretty cool and serious game. Then they started telling their friends about it, who told their friends and so on and so on. Some made a little money here and there, others got run over, but hey, it was just another game. Cool. Of course they were the outsiders, the losers, the clowns fucking around for shits and giggles. They understood that. They knew nobody treated them seriously. Hell, they had been called lazy losers all their lives. Might as well embrace that. So they proudly named themselves “Degenerates” and “Autistic Retards.”
Own the stigma, because you ain’t gonna ever shake it or lose it no matter how hard you try. They dabbled here and there, got a little better at it, and soon attracted a few serious players with serious money into their fold. Wall Street players, slumming it, who saw a community of misfits they could lead, teach, or scam, depending on their ethics. So it went, and their numbers and ability grew, and then this summer some of the cleverest Wall Street players, who specialized in making big bets on companies failing, came after GameStop, something they had personal views on. That perked up their interest. Making it even cooler, some legitimately skilled Wall Street players who had joined their island of misfit toys pointed out that GameStop was a good buy, not a good sell, and convinced some of the degenerates to join them.
Also, this mob of shitposters and neophytes was really learning the Wall Street game, and they noticed a flaw and weakness in it. The big players going after GameStop had left themselves exposed. Really exposed. So they did what any gamer does. They attacked by buying GameStop, and hyped and hyped it until everyone smelled blood and joined the attack, and bought GameStop. It worked. Kind of, and unexpectedly. GameStop, which was trading at $5 or so this summer is, as of this writing, trading at $300, give or take $150. A head-turning move even by Wall Street standards. The dog caught the car. The losers got to level twelve of a game nobody, including themselves, thought they would get past level four of.
Because many others might then follow?
• D.C. Bar Yet To Disbar Ex-FBI attorney Clinesmith (JTN)
Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith will be sentenced Friday for illegally altering a document that was used to authorize the agency’s effort to wiretap former Trump 2016 campaign adviser Carter Page. However, Clinesmith remains in good standing with the District of Columbia’s bar association, which has not begun an investigation into whether the group should strip him of his license to practice law, according to a new report. The D.C. bar as of Thursday still lists Clinesmith as an attorney in “good standing,” despite his pleading guilty nearly six months ago for altering the document. Clinesmith’s guilty plea was reported to the bar, and in September, the National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the group.
“The only appropriate sanction for committing a serious felony that also interfered with the proper administration of justice and constituted misrepresentation, fraud and moral turpitude is disbarment. Anything less would minimize the seriousness of the misconduct,” reads the complaint. Clinesmith was formerly licensed to practice in Michigan, where he attended law school, in addition to the district. The State Bar of Michigan automatically suspended the 38-year-old’s license in mid-August, when the court accepted his guilty plea. The suspension will remain in effect until a review panel determines the ultimate fate of his license.
The vaccine mess is growing fast.
• Novavax Vaccine Only 50% Effective Against South African COVID Strain (ZH)
The latest COVID-19 vaccine news is unequivocally disappointing. Novavax, one of six US companies that received hundreds of millions of dollars upfront from the US government to develop a COVIID-19 vaccine, has just released preliminary data from its Phase 3 trials. The data showed the vaccine was 89.3% effective in the UK branch of the trial.Vaccine trials were held in nearly half a dozen countries, but in the UK, 62 people (out of roughly 15K) came down with COVID-19 symptoms after receiving either the vaccine or a placebo. Of these, six had received the vaccine, while 56 had gotten the placebo. Yet, in a separate, middle-stage study in South Africa, the trial data suggested the vaccine was much less effective. In South Africa, the Novavax shot was about 49.4% effective against Covid-19 in the study.
Preliminary results showed that more than 90% of the sick subjects for whom sequencing data were available were infected with the new variant circulating in South Africa. The news comes at an inopportune time: A few hours ago, the CDC revealed that the first two confirmed cases of the hyper-infectious South African COVID mutation had been confirmed in South Carolina. In a separate Novavax trial held in South Africa, the efficacy was significantly lower. In a small trial the rate of protection was just 50%. Almost all the cases that scientists have analyzed there so far were caused by the mutated strain, known as B.1.351.
What’s even more disturbing: The data also showed that many trial participants were infected with the variant even after they had already had COVID-19. Novavax tried to put a bright spin on the results. “We have the first trial — we are the first to conduct an efficacy trial — in the face of a changing virus,” said Stanley Erck, the president and chief executive of Novavax. He said that researchers expected the variants could change the trial results, but “the amount of change has been a bit of a surprise to everyone.”
• Biden Stops Trump Order To Slash Price Of Insulin, EpiPen (DW)
President Joe Biden’s United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday stopped executive orders from his predecessor designed to significantly lower prescription drug prices for Americans, including insulin and epinephrine. The new administration will apparently re-evaluate the executive action from President Donald Trump toward the end of March. It remains unclear if it will be reinstated. “The HHS Thursday froze the former Trump administration’s December drug policy that requires community health centers to pass on all their insulin and epinephrine discount savings to patients,” Bloomberg Law reported Thursday. “Centers that don’t pass on the savings wouldn’t qualify for federal grants.”
“This freeze is part of the Biden administration’s large-scale effort announced this week that will scrutinize the Trump administration’s health policies,” the report noted. “If the previous administration’s policies raise ‘fact, law, or policy’ concerns, the Biden HHS will delay them and consult with the Office of Management and Budget about other actions.” A report for Bloomberg Government said the Biden administration is on a “different page” about curbing drug prices than the Trump administration, noting of the Biden team awaiting “at least a dozen lawsuits … over Trump-era moves to lower drug prices”: “Biden enters the presidency with at least a dozen lawsuits waiting over Trump-era moves to lower drug prices, an issue the new administration will likely tackle in its own way.
“The Department of Health and Human Services under Biden inherits challenges to rules that tie drug reimbursement to cheaper foreign drug prices and allow medication imports from Canada. It also faces complaints over Trump’s push for drugmakers to ship discounted drugs bought by low-income health centers to commercial contract pharmacies.” Trump signed four executive orders in July that directed the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to “[e]nd a shadowy system of kickbacks by middlemen that lurks behind the high out-of-pocket costs many Americans face at the pharmacy counter,” the department announced at the time, noting that they would provide Americans more options on purchasing the drugs.
During the signing ceremony, Trump said the high price of insulin and EpiPens have cut off low-income people in “desperate” need of the treatments. “The four orders I’m signing today will be on the prescription drug market in terms of pricing and everything else to make these medications affordable and accessible for all Americans,” said Trump, surrounded by health care professionals. “The first order will require federal community health centers to pass the giant discounts they received from drug companies on insulin and EpiPens directly to their patients. You know insulin became so expensive people weren’t able to use it. They desperately needed it.”
Shouldn’t adding states require a two-thirds majority?
• Democrats Introduce Senate Bill To Make D.C. The 51st State (Turley)
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and other Democratic senators are introducing a bill for D.C. statehood today, a proposal with heavy opposition in the public in continuing polls. Indeed, the bill was one of the reasons that members and advocates demanded the killing of the filibuster rule to force through the change in status based on a bare majority. If successful, it would give the Democrats two more senators in a city-state that will expected to remain reliably blue. I have testified repeatedly on this issue. There are strong arguments for changing the status of the District and statehood is a viable option. It would clearly be constitutional unlike past proposals. The question is whether it is the best option for the country. Roughly 20 years ago, I proposed a “modified retrocession plan” that would be an alternative if the Congress wanted full voting rights for citizens of the District.
The proposal would make create the first city-state in our history with a population of 700,000. However, half of the country opposes the idea. A new Harris/Hill poll shows fifty-two percent of respondents said they favored statehood while 48 percent said they opposed it. That is heavy opposition for such a statehood change. [..] The debate over D.C. statehood is a complex issue with historical, constitutional, and legal dimensions. It is also an issue with important and unresolved racial issues of a black-majority city without direct representation in Congress. I have previously voiced my view that such lack of representation for the District is unacceptable and untenable in our country.
And giant bags of money.
• Wall Street To Require Traders Wear A Top Hat And Monocle (BBee)
Stock exchanges on Wall Street, together with brokerages and the SEC, have instituted new rules to stop the wrong people from winning in the stock market. In particular, there is a new dress code for those looking to trade stocks. To protect against market volatility, the SEC has banned from trading anyone who doesn’t dress up like the Monopoly Man and carry around giant bags of cash. This rule is enforceable whether you are trading in person or online, with apps requiring you to send a picture of yourself holding bags and bags of cash or gold bars to prove you’re rich enough to trade. “We are making this change to keep the poors out,” said an SEC spokesperson. “There were too many smelly poor people trading stocks, when the stock market was always intended just to help the rich people make more money. Now that the big investors started losing, we are changing the rules of the game. Don’t make us flip the game board over — we’re warning you!”
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The end of a meme?
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