Why Brokers Had to Restrain Trading in GameStop Shares

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-brokers-had-to-restrain-trading-in-gamestop-shares-11612201242


When clients trade, especially on margin, they use the broker’s money to play. Imagine a client buys 100 shares of GameStop for $400 a share, using $20,000 of his own money and borrowing $20,000 from Robinhood. If the stock drops from $400 to $120 (as it did on Jan. 28), the client’s position may be sold for $12,000 due to the margin violation, leaving Robinhood trying to collect an unsecured $8,000 debt. Good luck. Multiply this by hundreds or thousands of similar clients. Option trading is worse because the leverage is much greater.

The broker’s risk is asymmetrical: If half its clients are winning big by buying during a short squeeze, while its short clients are suffering losses they can’t pay, the broker can’t offset these gains and losses, but must pay the winning clients while possibly eating the losing trades. It is rare, but brokers go bankrupt during market events like this.

Brokers therefore are subject to strict financial requirements, including that they maintain large security deposits at the clearinghouses. When risk rises, clearinghouses raise their requirements, even intraday. On Jan. 28, when GameStop dropped from $483 to $112, the clearinghouse DTCC raised requirements by an aggregate $7.5 billion. Brokers had to post that money to DTCC whether or not their clients had it.

Author(s): David Battan

Publication Date: 1 February 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

GameStop Mania Drives Scrutiny of Payments to Online Brokers

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/gamestop-mania-drives-scrutiny-of-payments-to-online-brokers-11612434601


The Reddit-fueled frenzy in stocks such as GameStop Corp. and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. is prompting calls for regulators to reconsider a decades-old practice in the U.S. stock market: payment for order flow.

The practice, in which high-speed trading firms pay brokerages for the right to execute orders submitted by individual investors, has long been controversial. Some have said it warps the incentives of brokers and encourages them to maximize their revenue at the expense of customers. Supporters, including many brokers and trading firms, said it helps ensure investors get seamless executions and good prices on trades.

Last year, brokerages such as Charles Schwab Corp., TD Ameritrade, Robinhood Markets Inc. and E*Trade collected nearly $2.6 billion in payments for stock and option orders, according to JMP Securities. The biggest sources of the payments were electronic-trading firms such as Citadel Securities, Susquehanna International Group LLP and Virtu Financial Inc.

Payment for order flow helped set the stage for the manic trading in GameStop, whose shares began the year around $18, surged to a record close of $347.51 on Jan. 27 and ended Thursday’s session at $53.50. Other once-hot stocks such as AMC and Koss Corp. fell more than 20% on Thursday as the Reddit rally lost steam.

Author(s): Alexander Osipovich

Publication Date: 4 February 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal