While the buzz surrounding the WallStreetBets GameStop short squeeze has died down recently, news of today’s Congressional hearing on the stock market craze has once again propelled it into the limelight.
Appearing for the first time to discuss the topic, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, Melvin Capital CIO Gabe Plotkin, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman and Keith Gill, the man behind the initial GME interest on /r/WallStreetBets (WSB) who goes by Roaring Kitty on YouTube and DeepFuckingValue on Reddit and Twitter, each testified today as both Republicans and Democrats grilled the group over the past month’s events.
Without going into too much detail about the whole debacle, which we’ve previously covered in recent weeks, let’s break down why these five individuals are testifying and what they’re being questioned about.
First off, Keith Gill is the retail investor who’s credited with kicking off the GameStop discussion on the WSB subreddit, and perhaps the most widely discussed individual surrounding the story. Back in 2019, Gill first began making posts to WSB sharing his GME stocks and discussing the topic on his YouTube channel. Although he remained anonymous early on during coverage, his name was released last month, revealing that Gill worked for the financial services firm MassMutual before recently leaving the company.
Gill now faces a lawsuit from Christian Iovin, a Washington state resident who purchased GameStop stock options, alleging that he violated securities laws and hid his financial training, duping retail traders into buying the stock (according to a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Massachusetts Tuesday). Gill vehemently denies these claims calling them “preposterous.”
Vlad Tenev is the other well-known figure among the group, and as the Robinhood CEO and co-founder, he faced perhaps the harshest criticism and questioning due to the company’s halting of buying stocks during the peak of the hype in late January. Tenev doubled down on his company’s reasons for this halt, citing that it was outside their control due to measures put in place during the 2008 financial crisis to mitigate risk, which resulted in Robinhood allegedly needing to put up $1 billion as collateral to continue allowing users to buy stock.
Gabe Plotkin and Ken Griffin, who represent Melvin Capital and Citadel (the two hedge funds that lost billions of dollars during the debacle), were there to represent their firms and elaborate more on what sort of practices their companies used as the stock craze unfolded. Lastly, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman was also in attendance to represent the platform that WSB calls home and was grilled over what moderation and oversight they have for communities such as WSB.
Aside from the events of the hearing, which you can view below, there were also some more humorous moments and memes to come out of the day that were widely shared online.
As a member of WSB and an active Redditor, Gill is clearly no stranger to meme culture, telling lawmakers at one point “I’m not a cat” in reference to the recent viral video and meme Zoom Cat Lawyer.
Gill’s nostalgic “Hang in there” poster, depicting a cat holding onto a rope reminiscent of Demotivational Posters, was also a common topic of discussion online, as well as his iconic red headband hanging on the poster that he uses in his YouTube videos.
Another viral discussion took place after some viewers noticed Steve Huffman appearing to drink a pint of beer after his testimony, though it’s hard to be sure precisely what the Reddit CEO was truly drinking.
After nearly five and a half hours, the hearing came to a close as Chairwoman Waters said, “I’m more concerned than ever that retail investors are being fleeced.” Waters promised a second hearing where lawmakers would oversee testimonies from regulators and consumer advocates in order to discern what the next steps are that should be taken to modernize financial regulations and hopefully avoid controversies like this in the future.