A look inside Robinhood during meme-stock mania
The trading app Robinhood has grown explosively, gone public and, for good measure, is now getting into crypto wallets. But internal exchanges between company managers revealed in a new legal filing — featuring Robinhood’s C.E.O., Vlad Tenev — highlight the tensions between fast growth and consumer protection.
A class-action lawsuit brought by Robinhood users alleges that the company was negligent during a period of extreme market volatility in late January, knowing it had insufficient capital to handle all the trading by new and existing users. That ultimately led the company to impose limits on trading in meme stocks like GameStop and AMC, the subject of subsequent congressional hearings.
Here’s a glimpse inside Robinhood in the days before it limited trading in meme stocks:
Jan. 23: As Robinhood discussed how to manage the risks of the frenzied trading in GameStop, a company insider wrote that “the process outlined above covers firm risk well, but from a public perception POV, we may want to consider the risks our customers face. Is there a comms need or other action we should consider?”
Jan. 25: Company engineers and executives chatted about surging trading volumes. “There are internal things that are starting to buckle under pressure,” a software engineer wrote. An engineering executive noted that a “code yellow” could be declared, putting all other work at the company on hold. “Only the paranoid survive,” Tenev responded. “One who panics first panics best,” added the company’s head of data science. “Joy,” said Tenev.
Jan. 28: Robinhood limits trading in meme stocks during the peak of the short squeeze, facing inquiries from the National Securities Clearing Corporation about whether it had enough capital to cover the trading risk. In an internal chat, Robinhood’s chief operating officer, David Dusseault, wrote that the company was “to [sic] big for them to actually shut us down.”
Maurice Pessah, attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the communications showed that Robinhood executives had been willing to put investors and markets at risk to advance their own interests. In a statement, a Robinhood spokeswoman told DealBook that the company stood by its decisions and that “communications cited by the plaintiffs are entirely consistent with Robinhood’s communications and actions on Jan. 28.”