Zac VanderLey—Staff Writer
Ben Fictorie’s mom never wanted him or his siblings to play video games. Nonetheless, Fictorie recalls receiving a Wii in order to provide an opportunity for physical exercise. He can still picture the time he bought Mario Kart for the console from a GameStop at a Sioux City mall in 2013.
Like many others, Ben didn’t expect to see GameStop, a nostalgic video game store, consistently headlining the news for weeks straight.
This past month, a group of Reddit users organized on the forum r/WallStreetBets, and together bought massive amounts of stock in dying companies such as Blackberry, AMC, and GameStop with the goal of forcing financial loss for Hedge Fund companies.
“The stocks in Wall Street are opportunities for individuals to buy a portion of a company,” Jesse Veenstra, a business and economics professor at Dordt University, said. “Wall Street serves as the intermediator between investors and companies.”
Initially, Veenstra laughed at the organized buying of GameStop stocks, which peaked at around $315 a stock but has now fallen around $60 a stock. But he fell fascinated by the way individuals came together through social media. The stock market, he explained, used to be run by the professionals, but now common folks have access to the same information as the professionals and can share that information in large groups through social media.
“People just have to learn how to use [the information],” Veenstra said.
Fictorie is a frequent Reddit user himself and described the app as a “mixed bag.”
“There’s genuinely good stuff on the app, but then there’s also garbage people,” Fictorie said. “Kind of like real life.”
The difference between Reddit and most other social media apps is in the privacy. Most accounts on Reddit are virtually anonymous. For one, there are no friend requests. Reddit is filled with sub-reddits and a slew of different communities all posting, commenting, and creating memes.
“I guess they are jokes that are shared with an image,” said Fictorie, in attempting to define a meme.
According to him, they at some point die and stop becoming funny, but for a period, people become hellbent on achieving the meme. According to CBS news, r/WallStreetBets’ buying of stocks was labeled Meme Stocks. Thus, they were more interested in the joke rather than actually making money.
“In the long term, it will not be problematic,” Veenstra said. “The rules will play themselves out.”
Veenstra believes there was no danger in the stock market collapsing given the infrastructure of the American stock market.
Even though the story surrounding GameStop and r/WallStreetBets seems unique, there have been weird blips in the market throughout the history of the United States. Kodak’s stock rose almost 1,000 percent over a couple days because of rumors regarding the COVID-19 vaccine during the Trump administration. In 2008, Volkswagen was a dying company, but, for a time, it became one of the most valuable companies in what has now been labeled “The Infinity Squeeze” or “The Mother of all Squeezes”. Around 400 years ago in the Netherlands, the price of Tulips skyrocketed 200 percent over a couple months and almost destroyed the Dutch economy. The difference now, Veenstra qualified, is that everything is shared.
“This example has raised insight and talking points surrounding the stock market,” Veenstra said. “It’s great for education.”
The hedge funds the Reddit users sought to financially injure owned heavy short positions on GameStop—meaning they had invested money expecting GameStop’s stock to continue to fall. When GameStop’s stock rose, these Hedge Fund companies lost significant amounts of money. However, r/WallStreetBets failed to realize the largest shareholder of GameStop is also a hedge fund. Therefore, this hedge fund profited astronomically once GameStop’s stock rose.
The Reddit users who sold quickly might have made money, but the majority of users buying for the memes are losing quite a bit. GameStop’s stock has meandered around the sixty-dollar mark the past couple of days and will continue to lower because the company’s business model no longer functions in an age that is slowly killing retail stores. Last week, according to CBS News, the leader of r/WallStreetBets: u/DeepF***ingValue, lost 13 million dollars in one day because of GameStop’s plummeting stock value.
Benjamin Graham, the author of Intelligent Investor and professor of stock market guru Warren Buffet, provided timeless investing principles: buy a diversity of stocks, buy regularly, and buy only in companies you believe in. Veenstra uses this book in his Investments Management class that he teaches on Dordt’s campus.
“We are called to be stewards and invest our assets into companies that can use our money to serve and help others,” said Veenstra.
This recent blip in the market highlights how greed can take over the market and appeal to the average investor explained Veenstra. But he believes the Christian investor uses his or her wealth to carry out the cultural mandate through responsible interactions within the stock market.
The Defender Capital Management club seeks to live out this call of stewardship by making trades of stocks while also discussing in detail the market. Any major can join the club if they are interested in experiencing the stock market with other Dordt students.