Demonization of Hedge Funds to Ramp Up

Here we go again

Politicians who printed unlimited money with wild abandon and reckless gambling main streeters will do what they do and avoid accepting any portion of the blame for a breakdown of systems with contributing behavior from all participants. Robinhood blocking the trading is such bad optics but I really doubt they were influenced by hedge funds to do so and more likely that their custodians drove the change.

Both sides want a distraction from the impeachment debate which will fail making both establishment Dems and GOP look bad, they're gonna lop a sweet sweet green shoot in public approval by going after the evil investors.

Of course reasonable arguments could be made about why finance guys did contribute to this or not, but I don't expect a reasonably informed debate. This will become the bipartisan, uninformed bash fest. It's not the bashing that bothers me. It's the completely uninformed nature of it and the fact that it provides cover from ever having to consider how monetary and fiscal policy might have unintended effects.

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Comments (59)

Jan 28, 2021 - 10:29pm

There's someting else that's kind of funny about all this on a deeper level.....

You have to be an accredited investor to invest in a hedge fund. On Robinhoood, you can be a complete moron and throw away your money freely on GME, but don't let investors put their money in a hedge fund, might be too risky you know....

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Jan 28, 2021 - 10:51pm

I've seen enough shitty finance takes today to last a lifetime. Please make it stop

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Jan 29, 2021 - 7:47am

maybe there's a contagion risk I'm not fully appreciating here, but I don't believe that a chat room going crazy over a few heavily shorted stocks will have tremendously negative impacts for the entire market. I don't see how something like this could be applied to blue chips, the bond market, and so on. I think some regulation will come, but I'd bet this has a far smaller long term impact than the rise of HFT and algo trading.

and I would argue it's not a black swan in terms of what happened (large short squeeze) but it's probably in that category if you consider the source of the short squeeze. by their very definition, black swans are incredibly low probability fat tailed events. this checks the low probability one, but so far no fat tail.

Jan 29, 2021 - 5:42pm

Well, let's think about some of the secondary effects here. We already have an overcapitalized market with rock bottom interest rates and a bunch of institutions that are supporting "main street's" pensions whose cost to hedge just went up. Giving benefit of doubt and assuming no real regulation comes out of this restricting short selling or a hedge fund's cost to operate, why wouldn't funds increase exposure on the long side, thereby perpetuating systemic risk into a pullback?

Not to mention this is a fraudulent company's wet dream...the trifecta of high unsophisticated retail investor participation + incredibly low cost to raise money using equity + inability of investors to short their stock.

When this all comes crashing down, and it will, there will be an unbelievable number of people who lose their entire savings with this type of behaviour -- and we all know it's not going to be the hedge fund manager. But they'll certainly take the blame.

Jan 29, 2021 - 9:02am

This post isn't about complaining about 'our short' getting blown up, it's all those who are not short GME and have watch uninformed tales about hows shorts are evil and malicious and crony criminals, while simultaneously getting blamed for the inevitable pain this will cause when it collapses. It's just a good old speculative mania driven by the Fed, money printing and human nature and greed on all sides.

Jan 29, 2021 - 5:48pm

Honestly I think the most ironic part of all of this is that shorting is one of a very limited number of tools that a market has to push back against fraudulent or structurally impaired but desperate-for-cash companies who would fleece the public in a heartbeat. This includes the short reports that come out of having an incentive to actually publish them. And we not only saw that incentive go away, we saw it be demonized to the point of publishing short sellers disappearing altogether.

People hate Enron, but they also hate one of the only ways to prevent Enron from happening again.

Jan 29, 2021 - 8:41am

If a bunch of redditors online can blow up your strategy / fund, it probably means it was a shitty idea with bad risk management. Never rooting for people to lose their jobs, but the funds losing during this are bad apples and deserved the losses

Jan 29, 2021 - 5:59pm

Are you saying that it was within two sigmas of uncertainty that a business such as GSE would be +2500% on no fundamental news? We can certainly argue the merits of having an unhedged short of GSE given the degree of its SI, or not attempting to cover it immediately when it jumped (again difficult to do with that degree of SI), you don't size positions on the basis of 50 sigma events happening. Yes, having a short has theoretically unlimited risk, but if I build in a 1% chance a stock I short goes to infinity for a scenario analysis, every single stock has poor risk/reward, and if I hedge every short I have on the basis of something like this potentially happening out of the blue I probably go my whole lifetime needlessly underperforming peers on my short performance (in which I'm already at a disadvantage by being anything other than long-only relative to peers in a no-holds-bar, bullish-to-the moon, zero discipline market like we have right now).

Also, I would like to point out the stock going up this much was exacerbated by a squeeze, but these types of violent moves are not impossible to do with low SI stocks provided float is limited.

Feb 2, 2021 - 12:34am

deathTouch

Are you saying that it was within two sigmas of uncertainty that a business such as GSE would be +2500% on no fundamental news? We can certainly argue the merits of having an unhedged short of GSE given the degree of its SI, or not attempting to cover it immediately when it jumped (again difficult to do with that degree of SI), you don't size positions on the basis of 50 sigma events happening. Yes, having a short has theoretically unlimited risk, but if I build in a 1% chance a stock I short goes to infinity for a scenario analysis, every single stock has poor risk/reward, and if I hedge every short I have on the basis of something like this potentially happening out of the blue I probably go my whole lifetime needlessly underperforming peers on my short performance (in which I'm already at a disadvantage by being anything other than long-only relative to peers in a no-holds-bar, bullish-to-the moon, zero discipline market like we have right now).

Also, I would like to point out the stock going up this much was exacerbated by a squeeze, but these types of violent moves are not impossible to do with low SI stocks provided float is limited.

If it happened it wasnt a 50 sigma event in the first place 

Jan 29, 2021 - 8:57am

Agreed, but the rhetoric is not "dumb move by them they deserved to lose money for poor risk mgmt and recklessness". The rhetoric I'm seeing is more along the lines of "they were always evil monstrous criminals destroying lives for laughs and then they made robinhood screw over the little guy, get your pitch forks!" When in reality it's more likely that robinhood was undercapitalized and it was a collateral issue, we'll see

Jan 29, 2021 - 9:48am

I mean how do hedge funds provide value to the world? Maybe you could make the argument that it improves market efficiency (clearly not the case here). Claiming that hedge funds don't exist for the sole purpose of making people stupid rich is asinine. Professional short sellers also have made a living of trying to kill companies and jobs. Not really that crazy to see why people are upset

Jan 29, 2021 - 10:10am

Wirecard. Enron. There's a lot of overlap between the popular narrative today around the shorts in Gamestop, and the narrative Wirecard (and their friends at BaFin / the German investment banks) was pushing before it all collapsed.

This idea that all 'professional short sellers' are evil and trying to kill companies without any social value is pretty frustrating. Can someone explain to me the causal link between shorting a company's shares and that company's fundamentals deteriorating? Most of the time when a hedge fund is short something it's because they think the business is doing a good job of collapsing without any outside help...

Most Helpful
Jan 29, 2021 - 10:15am

The counter argument is that they have made a living doing deep investigative research into frauds such as Wirecard, Valeant, Enron and countless other companies trying to raise capital by lying about what they were doing and taking advantage of the uninformed. There are other short sellers who are reckless and just try to publish 'hit pieces' with little foundation in fact. Almost every shortseller is net neutral or net long the market, they're buying $125 good company and shorting -$25 bad company, which should have the same overall impact to liquidity as shorting $100 of good, but the idea is that it enable productive companies to raise additional capital and fraudulent/misleading/promotional/failing businesses less able to gather more capital that will be destroyed or in some cases (frauds) stolen.

It's not some altruistic heroic endeavor, but I struggle to see why it's necessarily evil - it's a fairly neutral activity, if you're right about the prospects of a company it should be a slight positive for the economy on an aggregate level. If you're going about it maliciously or dishonestly or recklessly it's negative. But hedge funds are in public markets (I can't speak to why robinhood is blocking trades, thats obviously bad). Public markets are transparent and performance driven - unlike defense, parts of healthcare, many private companies who are also profit motivated and id argue much more often to engage in outright cronyism and fraud.

If your point is that they don't 'make' anything, it's a service and not a good. What is the 'value' of a bartender or athlete or accountant or marketer? If a university or a charity can deploy more money towards good causes because they have visibility on their budget and capital that should be a good thing.

Are actuaries evil? Is there service, in aggregate, an important function even if any individual one makes a negligible impact? It pays a lot because it's extremely scalable, that's honestly the crux of it - if 10 accountants could do everyone in the countries taxes, the best performing 10 accountants would be paid a lot and they'd be hired/fired mostly on a performance basis.

There are problems with capitalism, most notably moral hazards and bailouts which is more of a bank/broker issue, but I can see the argument that hedge funds benefit from gov support of banks. Have you ever taken out a loan or have a mortgage? I guess I can see the point that, in the new world the distribution of 'money' is arbitrary and set by government decree then yes, nobody should get paid that much to set prices when prices and value are generally arbitrary. And I think were seeing that shift now, arbitrary companies are going to the moon and people are getting rich from arbitrary 'plays' and in that environment perhaps hedge funds don't serve a purpose, but my guess is the government and random YOLO bets MIGHT create some malinvestment (see NKLA). I guess we'll see

  • Analyst 1 in HF - Other
Jan 29, 2021 - 10:56am

Short sellers exist to make price discovery more efficient, and literally to stop shit like what's happening in gamestop right now where people are pump and dumping a relatively worthless company, such that the average investor could stand to lose a lot of money buying the shares at this point. They also help expose frauds. Characterizing it as making a living killing companies is just completely wrong. It's not like Gamestop was a financially healthy company that the short sellers were trying to screw over on a whim.

Jan 29, 2021 - 9:26am

Sure, we're just people and hedge funds span a wide range personalities, skill-level, ethical standards, like any other job. 
 

My point isn't that hedge funds are altruistic paragons of brilliance. But rather that they're no monolithic cartoon villains and while there are fair bones to pick with the industry, all the current blind hate is just not based in an understanding of markets or the industry - there are a good amount of people on reddit etc. that understand a somewhat nuanced view, but a loud majority of WSB do not (not that they should or that it's wrong of them to not have a deep knowledge of hedge funds nor even that I think the 'shouldn't' buy whatever the fuck they want

But don't buy whatever you want, to an extreme, then the broker runs into a collateral call and suddenly I have to hear politicians tell me it's all my fault. Whatever though, we're overpaid so we get some hate that's fine. But it's the politicians jumping on that annoys me. They're being reckless with printing and policy and I can tell if they know that and don't care, or truly don't understand. I think it's the latter and that's concerning 

Jan 29, 2021 - 9:49am

Again, I offer that you're thinking about this too philosophically. At a basic level, people are rightfully upset about the current situation. It's a zero-sum game, for every winner there is a loser, and the general public is convinced that no matter what they do, they can't win against the financial oligarchy. I would venture to guess that there's probably more truth to that than not. That's the fundamental argument and everything else surrounding it is noise.

What happened yesterday was fundamentally wrong, and if the brokerages were unable to cover their potential losses due to overextending leverage to speculators, they probably shouldn't be in business due to poor risk management. Just like the hedge funds who were on the wrong side of the trade shouldn't be in business due to poor risk management, and the ones caught with their pants down probably won't be for much longer.

You can't just run away from basic truths by always diving into nuances.

Jan 29, 2021 - 10:24am

I'm not defending the brokerage blocking buying of the shares. Until I see that it was a crony move driven by hedge funds, I cant just accept that when the most likely scenario is that RH being a completely reckless company as other brokers did not have adequate capitalization to settle rapidly skyrocketing risk on their platform. That's on them though, not hedge funds.

Also the free commissions are possible because RH sells your order flow and lends your shares out for shorts. You can't enjoy the free commissions and ignore that you patronized that service that was EXPLICITLY partnered with a fund and repeatedly reckless with their duty to customers.

Counterparty risk is a thing. Hedge funds got screwed in 08 when banks went bust and couldn't honor contracts, same is happenjng to retailers w robinhood. Brokers limit various risk behaviors for hedge fund clients too and they'll margin call them or demand collateral as well. If the government blocked GME sales that's one thing, but if it was simply Robinhood not having the cash to fulfill their duty to customers that's a different issue than cronyism or malicious behavior from hedge funds

Jan 29, 2021 - 10:39am

"I'm not defending the brokerage blocking buying of the shares. Until I see that it was a crony move driven by hedge funds, I can't just accept that when the most likely scenario is that RH being a completely reckless company as other brokers did not have adequate capitalization to settle rapidly skyrocketing risk on their platform. That's on them though, not hedge funds."

-The motivations behind their decision to block buy orders are immaterial; in either case it's wrong. 

"Also the free commissions are possible because RH sells your order flow and lends your shares out for shorts. You can't enjoy the free commissions and ignore that you patronized that service that was EXPLICITLY partnered with a fund and repeatedly reckless with their duty to customers."

-This is wrong on its face because almost every broker is commission-free.

"Counterparty risk is a thing. Hedge funds got screwed in 08 when banks went bust and couldn't honor contracts, same is happenjng to retailers w robinhood. Brokers limit various risk behaviors for hedge fund clients too and they'll margin call them or demand collateral as well. If the government blocked GME sales that's one thing, but if it was simply Robinhood not having the cash to fulfill their duty to customers that's a different issue than cronyism or malicious behavior from hedge funds"

-Irrelevant and intellectually dishonest. There was no financial systemic risk here. A GME short squeeze was never going to put the entire financial system at risk. The risk is concentrated with the handful of businesses that had abysmal risk management and abysmal oversight of capital requirements, and those that did not hedge properly. Irrelevant if that is a hedge fund or a brokerage -- they are going to get swallowed by class action lawsuits and many will go out of business.

Jan 29, 2021 - 12:19pm

On point #1: I'm not defending the blocking of buying shares, but I'm arguing that the blocking of buying is not evidence of evil hedge funds colluding and rigging the game which seems to be the prevailing outrage. The motivation for blocking is irrelevant to whether the restrictions were unfair and bad, I agree. The motivation is definitely relevant to whether hedge funds are rigging the game but colluding or if there were other reasons

Re: systemic risk - it doesn't matter if there's widespread risk, Dodd-Frank requires certain levels of capitalization which is calculated off of things like volatility, which has skyrocketed. Robinhood should have had the capital to cover that and serve their customers but whether or not there was systemic risk doesn't change the fact that regulatory rules impose capital requirements. Again, the motivation matters for my argument which is that hedge funds didn't initiate the blocking of shares to stomp out the little guy, nor did Robinhood screw all their customers with the intent of protecting hedge funds.

If (for the purposes of discussion) Robinhood couldn't meet capital requirements and THATs why they blocked the shares, isnt your issue really with robinhood and/or with regulations (Dodd Frank) requiring them to maintain formulaic capital requirements?

There are two issues:

1.) you think shorting is necessarily bad (hedge funds are destructive or malicious). I probably won't be able to change your mind on this one

2.) you think hedge funds and robinhood unfairly teamed up to stomp out the little guy. If it were true that hedge funds did not pressure robinhood and rather robinhood failed to manage their capital requirments to meet government regulations, wouldn't be point 2 be misguided?

We may find out that robinhood or citadel was malicious and the trading restrictions were deliberate... but do you agree there could be an alternative explanation than hedge fund maliciousness and cronyism?

Even if you disagree with my view on point two, do you get my argument and understand where I'm coming from? Do you take issue with parts of that argument or are you just saying you believe that's not what happened? Would you change your mind if my hypothesis turned out to be true?

Thanks for the discussion, always great to debate

Jan 29, 2021 - 11:04am

Robinhood sells their order flow; however as I'm sure you're aware of with other brokerages going to zero commission, being a brokerage means your fundamental business model is to make money on the net interest margin on your deposits and spare cash. Robinhood has an absolute conflict of interest with restricting share purchases while simultaneously allowing the sale of shares. You're insane if you don't think there's a connection there. This is the sort of stuff that takes a semi neutral industry at best and fairly then gets demonized. Market manipulation and anticompetitive behavior should never be tolerated and the fact other funds haven't come out and decried these actions as heinous implies a lack of moral fibre. You may not see the issue here; however, as many Americans who saw the financial industry blow up the economy over the last two decades, it's more do the same and quite frankly, I'm tired of the greed, immaturity, and downright arrogantness of it all

Jan 29, 2021 - 1:58pm

WallStreetMemes

Robinhood sells their order flow; however as I'm sure you're aware of with other brokerages going to zero commission, being a brokerage means your fundamental business model is to make money on the net interest margin on your deposits and spare cash. Robinhood has an absolute conflict of interest with restricting share purchases while simultaneously allowing the sale of shares. You're insane if you don't think there's a connection there. This is the sort of stuff that takes a semi neutral industry at best and fairly then gets demonized. Market manipulation and anticompetitive behavior should never be tolerated and the fact other funds haven't come out and decried these actions as heinous implies a lack of moral fibre. You may not see the issue here; however, as many Americans who saw the financial industry blow up the economy over the last two decades, it's more do the same and quite frankly, I'm tired of the greed, immaturity, and downright arrogantness of it all

[duplicate]

Jan 29, 2021 - 1:58pm

WallStreetMemes

Robinhood sells their order flow; however as I'm sure you're aware of with other brokerages going to zero commission, being a brokerage means your fundamental business model is to make money on the net interest margin on your deposits and spare cash. Robinhood has an absolute conflict of interest with restricting share purchases while simultaneously allowing the sale of shares. You're insane if you don't think there's a connection there. This is the sort of stuff that takes a semi neutral industry at best and fairly then gets demonized. Market manipulation and anticompetitive behavior should never be tolerated and the fact other funds haven't come out and decried these actions as heinous implies a lack of moral fibre. You may not see the issue here; however, as many Americans who saw the financial industry blow up the economy over the last two decades, it's more do the same and quite frankly, I'm tired of the greed, immaturity, and downright arrogantness of it all

I'm on the same page that stopping the trading in those names (to exit positions but not allowing new positions to be opened) was really bad, unfair and shouldn't happen. I agree with you here.

What I'm debating is the WHY it happened and my premise that it doesn't appear it was an anticompetitive move, but rather gross negligence on Robinhood's and/or a move that was forced by regulatory requirements, which Robinhood ignored until it was too late in an effort to induce trading - for robinhood and for market makers. In my view, if we don't try to objectively evaluate how and why this happened, there's a high risk that the problem is not fixed for the future and that bad actors evade their share of the blame, as is what happened in '08.

In 2018 40% of robinhood revenue was from selling order flow. They sell at ultra-high rates because for various reasons I guess that order flow is more ripe for skimming. Payment from order flow revenue has since grown to 180m for 2Q20 and is presumably beyond 50% now. Options generate by far the highest fees. After payment for order flow, they make money mostly for on margin balances and via Robinhood Gold which allows additional speculative behavior. That's fine, free country and I'm all for democratizing risky investments because who's to say you shouldn't have freedom to make your own decisions.

From what I see, the most clear conflict is that Robinhood is incentivized to maximize leverage and options trading on their platform, which is all well and good, but they've paid in Dec a $65m fine for misleading about how they generate their revenue and there is ample reason to believe that they are not fulfilling duty of best execution. In essence Citadel Securities subsidizing commission to gather and profit from front running and/or trading against retail investors. That's ultra scummy, and it wasn't clearly enough disclosed until recently.

You're calling me greedy and immature and whatever because I'm not condemning Robinhood for blocking the trades - but I am condemning them I can't make that more clear. I also suspect that Citadel Securities (a market maker, not an entity or business model remotely reflective of the typical hedge fund) is taking advantage of retail traders. Robinhood offers free commissions and a great platform, but like Facebook their product is your data and their customer is market makers (for >=40% of their rev). All brokers make some money on balances and net interest, but it is the margin and order flow that allows Robinhood get the edge in gaining share (and a good UI)

I know we're talking past each other, but I appreciate the opposing view. On the trading halt itself being anticompetitive market manipulation move, how can we completely dismiss the alternative explanation that it was because Robinhood failed to maintain regulatory capital requirements they are responsible for if they want to induce and earn parabolic revenue on options and margin trading? Imagine that you're the Robinhood ceo and all the sudden because volatility has skyrocketed you need to put up cash to meet legal requirements but you don't have it and you can't raise enough fast enough. What do you do? Robinhood was supposed to IPO soon, the last think it's in their interest to do is fuck over all of their user base. They should have had more cash, or they may have fucked up some other way - they've had huge fuck ups in the past. Regardless, I agree Robinhood blocking trading was fucked up and they do have conflicts from selling order flow and conflicts because it seems they ran irresponsibly close to their capital limits in an effort to maximize revenue for an ipo.

Call me all the names you want, hate hedge funds all you want, I get it, there's an argument to be made. I'm just asking if you can at least see my point that this may have been recklessness on robinhoods behalf, greed and unfairness withstanding, but that there's is at least some, however small, possibility that the trading halt in particular was not initiated due to pressure from hedge funds or cronyism but rather as a result of regulatory requirements that the brokerage did not adequately reserve for? Is it a possibility? Short selling aside and whatever views you have on hedge fund employees, can't you at least see my point? You might disagree with it, but is it at least a valid topic of discussion about potential causes of the trading halt until we learn more?

Jan 29, 2021 - 1:58pm

WallStreetMemes

Robinhood sells their order flow; however as I'm sure you're aware of with other brokerages going to zero commission, being a brokerage means your fundamental business model is to make money on the net interest margin on your deposits and spare cash. Robinhood has an absolute conflict of interest with restricting share purchases while simultaneously allowing the sale of shares. You're insane if you don't think there's a connection there. This is the sort of stuff that takes a semi neutral industry at best and fairly then gets demonized. Market manipulation and anticompetitive behavior should never be tolerated and the fact other funds haven't come out and decried these actions as heinous implies a lack of moral fibre. You may not see the issue here; however, as many Americans who saw the financial industry blow up the economy over the last two decades, it's more do the same and quite frankly, I'm tired of the greed, immaturity, and downright arrogantness of it all

[deleted duplicate comment]

Jan 29, 2021 - 1:58pm

WallStreetMemes

Robinhood sells their order flow; however as I'm sure you're aware of with other brokerages going to zero commission, being a brokerage means your fundamental business model is to make money on the net interest margin on your deposits and spare cash. Robinhood has an absolute conflict of interest with restricting share purchases while simultaneously allowing the sale of shares. You're insane if you don't think there's a connection there. This is the sort of stuff that takes a semi neutral industry at best and fairly then gets demonized. Market manipulation and anticompetitive behavior should never be tolerated and the fact other funds haven't come out and decried these actions as heinous implies a lack of moral fibre. You may not see the issue here; however, as many Americans who saw the financial industry blow up the economy over the last two decades, it's more do the same and quite frankly, I'm tired of the greed, immaturity, and downright arrogantness of it all

[deleted duplicate comment]

  • Analyst 1 in HF - Other
Jan 29, 2021 - 11:02am

"It's a zero-sum game, for every winner there is a loser, and the general public is convinced that no matter what they do, they can't win against the financial oligarchy." This is just wrong lmao. We're at a point where markets are so efficient that you can buy an ETF and outperform the hedge fund industry year in and year out. When you use the markets for their intended purpose, i.e., being a long term investor, you can do very well relative to the financial oligarchy, as the competition between hedge funds gets you security prices that more efficiently reflect all their potential risk/rewards. When you want to use the stock market like a get-rich-quick casino and go up against market makers selling you vol and phds at HFTs and quant hedge funds looking through correlations and running sophisticated trading algos, you're probably going to lose money to them. It's almost like regulators knew that too which is why they have tried to discourage short term trading like you see on Robinhood and Wallstreetbets. 

Jan 29, 2021 - 8:33pm

"It's a zero-sum game, for every winner there is a loser, and the general public is convinced that no matter what they do, they can't win against the financial oligarchy."

I hope you realize it's only zero-sum in the options market, not in the equity market...right?

Guess this is what cranking on too many pitchbooks does to your brain over time...

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Jan 29, 2021 - 11:04am

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Jan 29, 2021 - 11:08pm

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