Tyrrell: The beginning of the end for Wall Street

Columnist Eileen Tyrrell foresees a reckoning where Redditors beat Wall Street at their own game. 

Eileen Tyrrell

Robinhood was first brought to my attention about a year ago, when several of my family members began petitioning me to use their referral codes to sign up. Grudgingly, I agreed. I used my brother’s referral code, put $10 into Dynavax, and that was that.

Until last week, when a handful of Reddit users collectively, successfully short squeezed the hedge funds betting against GameStop, the entire country lost its mind. 

Suddenly I couldn’t stop watching the stock market. I feverishly scrolled through Twitter, updating myself on the drama unfolding between Robinhood, Wall Street and the Reddit users of r/WallStreetBets — or WSB for short. The Redditors had declared war on Wall Street, and GameStop was their pawn. Then Robinhood sided with Wall Street, and Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Dave Portnoy teamed up with the Redditors. Something was in the air. I felt certain that the class war was beginning. 

Now over a week later, the dust has settled and GameStop stock is plunging close to what it was before we all learned what a short squeeze is. Reddit users are still hoping to stick it to the hedge funds by holding onto their GameStop, AMC and Nokia stock, but it’s looking less likely they’ll actually be able to send shares “to the moon,” as planned. What’s left in the wake of the chaos, though, is… not exactly normalcy. 

To be blunt, r/WallStreetBets grabbed hedge fund Melvin Capital (and others) by their throats. Financial data group S3 Partners estimated that short sellers lost over $23 billion in GameStop stock in January — all because of the chatter happening on Reddit over the past six months. 

Last week’s market turbulence might be flattening out, but WSB proved a point: They beat Wall Street at their own game. And they showed us all not just how vulnerable and illusional the stock market is, but how much the game is rigged against everyday Americans. This episode single-handedly radicalized almost every finance bro I know, even the types who usually stay out of the anti-capitalist sentiment rippling through our generation. 

The thing is, for most middle-class Americans, the stock market is viewed as a tool that smart people use to grow their wealth. I mean, I think I’ve been hearing the phrases “Make smart investments” and “Diversify your portfolio” tossed around in every finance or home economics class I’ve taken since seventh grade. We’re taught that if you’re smart and work hard, you can use the stock market to your advantage. 

I’m not saying that that’s not true, but they forgot to ALSO inform us that before helping ordinary people, the stock market’s primary function is to make super rich people become even richer. The manner in which Robinhood swiftly and decisively sided with Wall Street in blocking users from trading AMC and GameStop stock last week made that abundantly clear. 

If nothing else, what happened last week illuminated massive flaws in the market that essentially runs our nation’s economy. But I don’t think “nothing else” is what’s next. I think a reckoning is coming for the invisible underpinnings of our economy. I think this is the beginning of the end for Wall Street.