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Major Players In GameStop Stock Saga Appear Before House Committee

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After the stock market went haywire over GameStop recently, a lot of people had questions. Well, today, the House Financial Services Committee asked many of those questions and pointed plenty of fingers in a virtual hearing with a number of key players from the saga. NPR's Ryan Kailath beamed into that hearing, and he joins us now. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN KAILATH, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Remind us why Congress wanted to talk to GameStop and the people behind this boom.

KAILATH: Yeah. So remember; just last month, it felt like the whole country was watching this. Gamestop stock shot up 2,000% briefly before crashing - a lot of questions. So Maxine Waters, who convened the hearing - she said she wanted to dig into who exactly was hurt by this, who profited and how it all went down.

SHAPIRO: So tell us about the cast of characters. Everybody who was called in played a significant role in this saga in some way, right?

KAILATH: Yeah, the whole cast is kind of in the title of the hearing. It was called, quote, "GameStopped? Who Wins And Loses When Short Sellers, Social Media And Retail Investors Collide." So short sellers - one prominent one was there, Gabe Plotkin of the hedge fund Melvin Capital. He bet big against GameStop and lost billions on the trade. On the social media side, the CEO of Reddit was there. That's the platform where all the little investors gathered to push GameStop and discuss their investments. And then the perhaps unwilling spokesman for the little guy, the retail investor - he goes by Roaring Kitty on YouTube and a name on Reddit that we can't say on the radio.

SHAPIRO: I take it Roaring Kitty is neither roaring nor a kitty. Tell us who he is.

KAILATH: His real name is Keith Gill. He's a 34-year-old who a lot of people credit with starting this whole GameStop mania. He was an early booster of the stock, pushed it on social media. And he claims he made $48 million off the trade. Here's a clip from today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEITH GILL: A few things I'm not - I'm not a cat. I'm not an institutional investor, nor am I a hedge fund. I'm just an individual whose investment in GameStop and posts on social media were based upon my own research and analysis.

KAILATH: So he has a very serious point here, which was that he says he did not manipulate the market. He did not do anything illegal.

SHAPIRO: And the CEO of the trading app Robinhood was also there. This is the platform where a lot of this all played out. What kinds of questions did he get?

KAILATH: Yeah. Everyone had a question for him, namely about why did Robinhood halt buying of GameStop and these other so-called meme stocks right at the peak of the frenzy because, you know, after Robinhood halted buying, people could only sell. The price dropped back down. A lot of small investors lost money, and there was outrage from everyone. You know, this underlined the idea that the game is rigged against the little guy. So Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev - he said repeatedly today Robinhood had to halt buying because of these arcane financial requirements. But then he spoke straight to the small investors. Here's a clip of him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VLAD TENEV: At the end of the day, what happened is unacceptable to us. To our customers, I'm sorry, and I apologize.

KAILATH: So ultimately, by the end of the hearing, there was no indication of any big reforms probably coming out of this. It seemed like it was a pretty freak occurrence. And, you know, experts testified there that if there was some easy regulatory solution, it would have lots of other unintended consequences - so might just have to chalk this one up.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ryan Kailath, thanks a lot.

KAILATH: Thanks, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLIDE FIVE'S "KC DOPPLER (THIEVERY CORPORATION REMIX)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.