Though it may seem like the news surrounding Gamestop and Robinhood may be dying down, a live-streamed interview on Feb. 23 revealed more of the story. Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy grilled Robinhood CEO Vladimir Tenev about the app’s response to users wanting to buy $GME stock. Portnoy didn’t hold back, aggressively challenging Tenev’s arguments and framing the conversation more as a boxing match between nerds than a calm interview.
Come out swinging
A vocal critic of Tenev’s response to the Gamestop Stock scandal, Portnoy invited Tenev onto his show to discuss why Robinhood blocked the buys of $GME stock and if amateur investors could ever trust the app again. After amping up to “Danger Zone,” Portnoy didn’t pull any punches, starting the conversation by saying, “OK, Vlad, you know that everybody here that’s watching hates your guts, right?”
Tenev acknowledged his unpopularity and the criticism he’s faced, including from Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters during his Congressional testimony.
Was liquidity really a problem?
Tenev justified Robinhood’s response to the Gamestop scandal because of liquidity concerns. If something is liquid, it can be converted into cash. So, Tenev was saying that Robinhood didn’t have enough cash to back up the purchases. But he also told Congress that Robinhood had raised $3 billion during this period. Portnoy wondered if that amount of money would’ve covered their liquidity concerns.
Tenev said everything now is hypothetical, but the app likely would have faced liquidity issues. His actions were to protect his customers “because if the firm can’t continue to service our customers, that’s a much worse situation.” He added that he was “running on fumes” during all of his press appearances and could’ve cleared things up better.
Can “bro investors” trust Robinhood?
These two guys also talked about whether “bro (retail) investors” can trust Robinhood again. Portnoy said that as a firm catering to retail traders, Robinhood completely “screwed them over.” Tenev said he understands why people feel that way, “but customers buying meme stocks rests on the foundation of our business being able to operate, which rests on a foundation of the financial system working. If the financial system breaks down, things could go south really, really quickly.”
Agree to disagree?
Portnoy still pushed back on this narrative, arguing that Robinhood put its support behind the hedge funds instead of the “little guy.” The conversation ended at a deadlock, with Tenev insisting that Robinhood was always in support of the “little guy” and would recover and grow even better from this crisis. But Portnoy ended it by saying that “I’m not going to say good luck because I’m not wishing you good luck. But I appreciate you coming on.”
Who came out on top: Dave or Vlad?