Here are some words I never thought I’d type: the hedge fund CEO that bailed out GameStop short sellers earlier this year just secretly outbid a hyped-up bunch of crypto lords for an ultra rare copy of the original U.S. Constitution. Earlier this year, billionaire Kenneth Griffin became public enemy number one for GameStonk acolytes. Now he’s pulled the rug out from under another bizarre online clique: ConstitutionDAO.
As detailed extensively in a series of recent reports by Vice, crypto enthusiasts formed ConstitutionDAO in an attempt to meme a new decentralized form of political order into existence by purchasing a copy of the Constitution. Like the plot of a BioShock game, things quickly descended into chaos as the group, which raised a whopping $40 million, got out-bid at auction by a secret buyer fronting just a few million more, leading to the most expensive sale of a historical document ever at $43.2. There are 13 copies of the Constitution still in circulation, the last one of which sold in 1988 for less than $200,000.
Today, Griffin broke the news that he was the one who thwarted ConstitutionDAO’s plans. “The U.S. Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all those who aspire to be,” Griffin told Barron’s in a statement. “That is why I intend to ensure that this copy of our Constitution will be available for all Americans and visitors to view and appreciate in our museums and other public spaces.” The document will begin its new journey at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Akansas.
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This isn’t the first time Griffin has pissed off a bunch of very online people by throwing his money around. Back in January when GameStop’s stock hit record breaking numbers because of an unlikely confluence of market forces and internet memes, a hedge fund called Melvin that was shorting the stock lost out big time. Traders and GameStop meme stock enthusiasts at places like the WallStreetBets subreddit were happy to see it tank. But then Griffin and others swooped in and propped it back up with over $2 billion in new capital.
As CEO of Citadel, Griffin also runs one of the largest market makers in the world, meaning it’s the one actually buying and selling stocks on exchanges for clients. One of its big clients is Robinhood, the commission-free trading app that many were using to buy and sell GameStop and other meme stocks. On one pivotal day near the end of January, Robinhood suddenly started blocking users from trading GameStop stock just as it was hitting unthinkable new heights (over $300 a share the day before).
Robinhood claimed it needed to temporarily halt trades to make sure it had money on hand to cover potential losses, but WallStreetBets-types have long speculated, without much in the way of actual evidence, that Citadel made Robinhood do it to help out Melvin. A classic conspiracy, in other words, and the worst kind of all: one meant to defraud Redditors. Congressional hearings ensued, and eventually an entire investigation by the SEC. When commissioner Gary Gensler finally released the SEC’s findings last month, it was full of warnings but no real answers. The conspiracy theories, and Twitter mobs calling on Griffin to confess, persisted.
Time will tell if ConstitutionDAO becomes similarly committed to some sort of Griffin-trutherism. In the meantime, he can enjoy reading an original copy of of the founding legal document currently crippling our republic.