Archive for January 27th, 2021

Gaming the System

Russian, Weaponised, Casino - Roulette in Movies - Pissed Off Geek
“Have you tried twenty-two? I said, try twenty-two.”

In today’s trading, things for GameStop (GME) have gotten even frothier. The stock closed at $145, traded after-hours mostly in the $200-220 range, opened this morning at $312, and is currently set to close at about $350 a share.

The mania has now spread to another stock, AMC Entertainment (AMC), which is up 300% today, quadrupling in price. Like GME, it was a popular short play, with short interest being about 33% of shares in the market, also called the float. And like GME, about 1/3 of its shares available to trade are not on the market, but held by the company’s treasury.

With so many shares in reserve, this might seem like a good time for the companies to cash in themselves, dribbling out reserve shares at a hyper-inflated price. In my last post, Stop the Games, I mentioned that it would be difficult for a company to do that, and I’d like to expand on that a little.

Right now, the situation is that a self-organized, relatively leaderless mob has decided to pull a bull raid on a couple of stocks. They’ve done this on their own, which is different from how these runs usually happen. It doesn’t appear to be simply a case of greater fool trading.

But by their nature, such groups could be manipulated by a savvy operator. It appears that in both cases, AMC and GME, the stocks were discussed for a while before the group decided to move.

If a company were to start monitoring social media, and subtly encourage the group to begin a bull raid. The company would then be able to execute the strategy outlined above, selling shares into the market, at a slow enough rate to rake in some cash, but perhaps not enough to move the price down.

Doing that would be a clear SEC violation, and obvious fraud, but it might not be all that easy to detect in the flood of messages, at least not at first.

And even if the company were completely innocent, participating only passively in the group and selling once the price spiked, they’d almost certainly have to undergo a painful SEC investigation anyway. So the price of even honest opportunism is a federal investigation into all the company’s electronic communications.

That’s why they can’t take advantage of this spike, even if they wanted to.

It is, however, a good reason for these chat rooms to remain open, as long as they’re just traders bandying about comments and information and even rumor. They can provide a company a heads-up on when such a mob might start taking an interest in its stock, and help keep them apprised of what people are saying in general.

Once such a forum becomes a place to actively coordinate an attack on the stock, however, it needs to be closed down.

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