While financial commentators and regulators can and will argue about what if any regulations should be instituted going forward, it looks as if everybody played by the rules, as they stand.
So did we really learn anything profound? The marketplace of opinions about the meme stock phenomenon has been as volatile as the trading itself: A series of hypotheses about populism, corruption, masculinity, inequality and price bubbles battled for primacy among those of us who watch cable news and consume think pieces.
At the hearing, various members endorsed different theories. “Many Americans feel that the system is stacked against them, and no matter what, Wall Street always wins,” said the Financial Services Committee chairwoman, Maxine Waters, Democrat of California.
The panel’s ranking Republican member, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, suggested that the issue was less that of a game rigged against small-time investors and more the lack of productive assets for them to buy. “We created a world where it’s easier to buy a lottery ticket than it is to invest in the next Google,” he said. “Is it any wonder why the unhealthy dynamics of GameStop happened?”
All in all, some hedge funds got pummeled, but briefly. Some unlucky retail investors got in on the fun too late, taking serious losses. And there were also plenty of life-changing profits taken by people far beyond the usual suspects. That’s a pretty muddied picture.
The most meaningful thing to glean from all of this, according to Josh Brown, the chief executive of Ritholz Asset Management, may be a large incentive change for market behavior going forward: “I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be that visibly vocally ‘short’ on anything,” he told me. “I think that era has ended where there’s this automatic kneejerk reverence for a $5 billion hedge fund manager with a PowerPoint” pitching other investors on why they should bet against a company.
Though shares in GameStop and fellow meme stock AMC have fallen far short of “the moon” where its boosters hoped it would land, both companies are, for now, trading above their most disastrous lows.