The stock trading app Robinhood is currently blocking users from buying any more GameStop stock citing “recent volatility” as its price soared from just under $20 at the beginning of the month to over $300 at the end of yesterday.
“We continuously monitor the markets and make changes where necessary,” the company wrote in a blog post this morning. “In light of recent volatility, we are restricting transactions for certain securities to position closing only, including $AMC, $BB, $BBBY, $EXPR, $GME, $KOSS, $NAKD and $NOK. We also raised margin requirements for certain securities.”
Reports began spreading on Twitter ahead of the stock market opening that heavily shorted stocks like GameStop, AMC, and Nokia, all of which have been spiking in recent days amid a trading frenzy over on the WallStreetBets subreddit, were no longer available to trade. Currently, if you search for any of them on Robinhood. nothing shows up. They also appear to be excluded from the app’s built-in newsfeeds. The trading app Stash, meanwhile, now shows a warning about volatility on the GameStop page seeking to dissuade users from investing in it.
Robinhood did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
GameStop’s unthinkable stock price surge over the last week has been a lot of things—a feud between amateur day-traders meming on Reddit and big hedge funds placing, a case study in how untethered from reality the stock market can be—but it’s also drawn the attention of regulators and even the White House as some rich people and Wall Street insiders freak out about the right and wrong ways to gamble online.
It’s also put a big spotlight on WallStreetBets, the community of Reddit edgelords the center of the circus. The group’s Discord server was banned last night for hate speech, and the subreddit itself was temporarily taken offline. It’s since come back, along with additional Discord servers.
The GameStop stock itself seems undeterred so far this morning, At the time of writing it’s experiencing massive up and down swings and currently over $400 a share.
Update - 11:21 a.m. ET, 1/28/21: Amid the trading freeze for users of Robinhood and other apps, GameStop’s stock price has fallen off a cliff in the last hour, dipping below $200 from its previous high. The Twitter account for WallStreetBets criticized Robinhood’s move for creating an uneven playing field.
“What do you call a market that removes retail investors ability to buy to save institutional investors shorts?” it tweeted.
Cnet reports that TD Ameritrade has also halted the purchase of GameStop stock. Lots of Robinhood’s users, over 50% of whom own at least some GameStop stock, according to a report by Motherboard, are angrily responding to one of co-founder Vlad Tenev’s most recent tweets, and even Rep. Rashida Tlaib weighed in, calling on the House Committee on Financial Services to hold a hearing on “Robinhood’s market manipulation.”
“They’re blocking the ability to trade to protect Wall St. hedge funds, stealing millions of dollars from their users to protect people who’ve used the stock market as a casino for decades,” she wrote on Twitter.
Update - 11:42 a.m. ET, 1/28/21: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also criticizing Robinhood’s decision, calling it “unacceptable” on Twitter and adding that she would also support a Congressional hearing “if necessary.”
Update - 6:04 p.m. ET, 1/28/21: Robinhood co-founder Vladimir Tenev took to Twitter after the stock market closed today to try and explain the company’s decision in more detail and announce it will allow limited trading of GameStop stock again beginning tomorrow.
“As a brokerage firm, Robinhood has many financial requirements, including SEC net capital obligations and clearinghouse deposits,” he wrote. “Some of these requirements fluctuate based on volatility in the markets and can be substantial in the current environment.”
He went on:
These requirements exist to protect investors and the markets and we take our responsibilities to comply with them seriously, including through the measures we have taken today.
To be clear, this decision was not made on the direction of any market maker we route to or other market participants.
Starting tomorrow, we plan to allow limited buys of these securities. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed.
Additional reporting by Lisa Marie Segarra.