Vlad Tenev hearing: Robinhood CEO’s US lawmaker grilling spotlights broker’s hidden risks

WASHINGTON: Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev advised a congressional listening to that his resolution to curb shopping for in some shares reminiscent of GameStop Corp throughout a interval of utmost volatility was unavoidable, however business consultants stated it solely underscored the dangers the favored buying and selling app was keen to simply accept to develop its market share.

Robinhood’s Jan. 28 restrictions on shopping for GameStop and different shares that hedge funds had wager towards drew the ire of its clients and US lawmakers. They accused it of doing Wall Avenue’s bidding by shielding the hedge funds from a military of beginner merchants banding collectively on Reddit to take them on.

Tenev reiterated within the listening to on Thursday his prior rationalization for the transfer, saying it was dictated not by hedge funds however by a requirement that Robinhood provide you with an extra $Three billion in collateral to ensure buyer trades. He stated it was a particularly uncommon “black swan” occasion brought on by the unprecedented volatility.

But Jan. 28 had been preceded by a number of days of frenetic buying and selling as beginner traders flocked to Robinhood. That ought to have served as a warning that the flood of orders was turning into unsustainable with out setting extra capital apart, market construction consultants stated.

Robinhood was compelled to lift $3.four billion shortly from its traders to remain in enterprise and canopy potential future collateral calls.

“Nothing I heard right this moment means that Robinhood was ready for its margin calls. No accountable broker-dealer would make abrupt, ad-hoc buying and selling halts the cornerstone of its liquidity danger administration program,” stated Joseph Cisewski, particular counsel at Washington think-tank Higher Markets.

A Robinhood spokeswoman didn’t present additional touch upon Thursday night.

The capital name that Robinhood confronted was because of the customary two-day processing time for settling trades. Brokerages are required to submit collateral with clearing-houses to ensure a commerce in case both celebration defaults earlier than settlement.

Robinhood’s Jan. 28 collateral name was a 10-fold leap on its Jan. 25 requirement, Tenev stated. By proscribing buying and selling, it was capable of slash that sum to $1.four billion. As Robinhood already had $696 million on deposit with its clearinghouse, it transferred one other $737 million to satisfy the decision, he stated.

Different main brokerages reminiscent of Charles Schwab & Co and TD Ameritrade didn’t limit shopping for in affected shares.

Some elevated their buyer margin necessities, making certain they’d enough funds to cowl their positions. Schwab and TD, that are each owned by Charles Schwab Corp – which has a lot deeper pockets than Robinhood – started growing their margin necessities for GameStop round Jan. 13.

Tenev appeared to contradict himself through the listening to, stating a number of instances that Robinhood didn’t expertise a liquidity disaster and that it had raised the $3.four billion for future collateral calls for, solely to concede later that the buying and selling app needed to limit shopping for as a result of it didn’t have the $Three billion.

“The clearing home mechanism is in place… to construct monetary system stability. That’s one thing we will likely be to make sure every part functioned as meant,” Securities and Alternate Commissioner Hester Peirce stated in an interview final week.


The Depository Belief & Clearing Corp, the clearing home that known as for the $Three billion, implied in written testimony that clearing brokers ought to concentrate on their obligations.

It stated they’ve entry to its guidelines and methodologies, that are public and clear, and that it offers calculators and instruments that permit brokers to “monitor their danger in close to real-time” and to estimate necessities for hypothetical eventualities.

Robinhood’s resolution in 2018 to launch its personal clearing dealer to course of trades might have exacerbated its monetary burden on Jan. 28, some market construction consultants stated.

The change allowed it to chop prices by eliminating its exterior clearing dealer, which acted as a intermediary between it and the clearinghouse. However that meant Robinhood was additionally assuming whole duty for the capital calls in instances of volatility.

The consultants stated it was unlikely that an skilled clearing dealer would have allowed Robinhood to tackle a lot danger within the first place.

“Margining necessities are at all times a much bigger deal for smaller market contributors with much less capitalization and fewer money reserves,” stated Virginie O’Shea, CEO of finance consultancy Firebrand Analysis.

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