I was hoping to punt coverage of the amateur trading insanity to John’s blog rotation next week, but it seems notable that the SEC’s Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee – along with Pete Driscoll, Director of the Division of Examinations, and Christian Sabella, Acting Director of the Division of Trading and Markets – issued a joint statement yesterday to say they’re on the case. Of course, the statement doesn’t name names, but it’s hard to think it’s referring to anything other than the out-of-this-world trading of GameStop and a few other companies, which has been the subject of at least 10 WSJ articles, an Elon Musk tweet and a Vox explainer in the past 24-48 hours.
GameStop’s stock triggered at least nine trading halts on Monday, according to Bloomberg News. It closed yesterday at $347.51, down slightly from its opening price but still more than a 1740% increase over the high-teens closing price of earlier this month. And while the company isn’t in passive index funds that track to the S&P 500, it is included in some retail exchange traded funds, so the trading is impacting more than just the company itself. Don’t worry, “All is well!”
My favorite coverage so far has been from Matt Levine – here’s an excerpt from yesterday’s “Money Stuff” column:
You know who has a weird job right now? George Sherman. GameStop’s executives and board of directors don’t seem to have said much recently. What could they say? “Huh, nice that the stock’s up.” One important thing to remember is that while you and I and Reddit and Elon Musk can all treat GameStop’s stock as an absurd gambling token, a toy adrift on market sentiment far from any economic reality, it is still the stock of a company. The company’s executives still come to work each day and have to figure out what this all means. Does the price signal sent by the capital markets tell them something about how they should invest and what their hurdle rate for new projects should be? (Lol no.) Should they keep doing the stock buyback that they still have authorized? (Lol no.)
Should they sell a ton of stock to all these redditors who want it so badly? Yes, of course, absolutely, I said so on Monday, but it’s tricky. For one thing if they sell stock at the top they will surely get sued. For another thing, even at these prices, you want something sensible to do with the money; you can’t be like “we’re gonna sell a billion dollars of stock because we can, and use the money to pay ourselves bonuses and open some stores I guess?” Also, though, what is happening with their stock is a strange and for all anyone knows delicate piece of magic, and it’s very possible that filing to sell more stock would mess it up. For technical reasons (more shares for short sellers to borrow), for fundamental reasons (dilution?), for anti-establishment resentment reasons (“ahh Wall Street is taking advantage of this rally for its own ends”) or for general emotional reasons (“man even GameStop is a seller at these prices”). I would not be especially surprised if GameStop announced a stock offering and the stock fell all the way back to, you know what I am not going to type a number here, but let’s just say a normal price.
GameStop actually does have a $100 million ATM offering going right now, under a Form S-3ASR that it filed in early December – or at least, it did have an ATM offering going at some point in the recent past, and it hasn’t reported whether all of that stock has been sold. If there’s still room under the program, theoretically it could hit the market at these wild valuations.
That could be a little more doable than, say, filing a pro supp right now and including disclosure that anyone who buys in the offering is nuts. Hertz tried that last summer when it was in bankruptcy and also trading at weirdly high values, and then quickly suspended the offering when the SEC Staff raised questions. Any other fast moves to capitalize on this could not only open the company up to potential shareholder litigation, but also leave it holding a big bag of cash that looks pretty attractive to activists if and when the stock falls back to Earth.
It’s hard to say which company will next catch the eye of the Reddit YOLO crowd – there are a few contenders already, which the SEC is probably watching. If these speculative frenzies continue, it can’t hurt to be prepared for the questions you’ll inevitably get as counsel. As a starting point, check out these MoFo FAQs on at-the-market offerings and Regulation M – and the other resources in our “Equity Offerings” Practice Area.