People Power: GameStop's Populist Game Changer, Big Earnings from Big Tech, NorthOne and Visible CEOs on Empowering the Little Guy + More
Passions ran hot this week in stock trading circles, as traders on Reddit stuck it to big hedge funds betting against struggling companies. I also spoke with a couple of CEOs using tech to find a better deal for small businesses and consumers. That's why the theme of the week is People Power. Let's go:
Which Powered Markets, Tech Earnings or Reddit? On the Other Hand
Which is the bigger tech story: Big tech earnings beats from Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and more? Or the epic Reddit, Inc.-driven short squeeze? I weighed in on the latest On the Other Hand:
Conspiracy Theories, 'Political Leaders,' and a Testy Exchange with Tyler Winklevoss
A little break from the usual format here, because yesterday I was involved in an on-air confrontation on CNBC that generated at least one headline and a lot of Twitter noise.
As you can see above in On the Other Hand, I make the argument that "this short squeeze is important because in a new way, the little investor is using technology and teamwork to create and destroy wealth the way mighty hedge funds have in the past." Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, known first for their roles in the Facebook origin saga and more recently for Bitcoin prescience, came on air to support the Reddit crowd.
Things went south when Tyler blamed "political leaders" for shutting down Robinhood trading on Thursday. As you'll see in the clip at the link, I asked him for evidence to back up the statement. Here's Tyler's quote:
“Look, I think this is the beginning of the end of centralized finance. I think if anyone thinks this is about just one stock or two stocks, they're mistaken. I think this is a much larger movement. I think it's a systemic issue. And I think that people need to fix it, or it's going to get much, much worse. I think this is a much larger issue, in the thread of our country and its fragility and what's happening in the inequality. And frankly the hypocrisy of the political leaders who say, "You can't open your business and run your business and make a living during the pandemic. We won't pass a stimulus bill in time. And oh, by the way, and now you can't trade." You know, what's the next thing they're going to control and say you can't do?”
I've got no problem with him expressing his opinion. But when he accused "political leaders" of hypocrisy for closing businesses during COVID, refusing to pass stimulus on time and shutting down stock trading, that just wasn't supported by facts. The truth is that political leaders have disagreed about how much to shut down businesses. They've disagreed on the need for stimulus, and how much. And there's no evidence I've seen that political leaders are responsible for what some brokerages did on Thursday. It turns out, Tyler didn't have that evidence, either. I challenged Tyler Winklevoss to give us the facts behind the accusation he was making, because accuracy matters to me. (This morning, my colleague Andrew Ross Sorkin and former colleague Kate Kelly are among the writers of this New York Times piece that reports it was Robinhood's own cash crunch that motivated its move to shut down purchases of certain stocks.)
Just to underscore this point, we now have Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Republican Senator Ted Cruz — representing the very conservative and very liberal ends of the political spectrum — both calling for inquiries into Robinhood's decision to restrict trading in certain stocks.
It didn't end there. Tyler Winklevoss then took to Twitter to make false claims about me, and double down on his assertion that political leaders pressured Robinhood to shut down trading. Again, we just don't know that to be true. And Winklevoss has mobilized his substantial Bitcoin and Reddit following on Twitter to send an avalanche of harassment my way. It's nasty stuff.
It doesn't escape me that speculating about "political leaders" being responsible for unfair market dynamics isn't a victimless crime. We just had a mob inspired by conspiracy theories stage an insurrection at the Capitol this month. But, as long as there is populist anger, there will be people with money and a loose regard for facts who try to use it to their advantage.
Building for People: Visible CEO on Music as Prep for Business
Miguel Quiroga is CEO of Visible, an all-digital wireless carrier owned by Verizon. Creative projects can prepared him for career success when, as a college student and drummer in the '90s, he worked to produce his own music:
The Power of Perseverance: NorthOne CEO on His Toughest Moment
Eytan Bensoussan started NorthOne Business Banking with the goal of helping small business owners like his grandfather by taking some stress out of the banking process. But in the early days, the startup came close to failing:
A big update on The Black Experience in America: The Course: I've got a new lesson available. Multiculturalism covers the period after the Civil Rights Movement, and how it exposed some dynamics we're still wrestling with today. And now you can get all three available lessons in a discounted bundle: