A random guy in Washington state named Christian Iovine has sued Keith Gill, the Redditor known as “DeepFuckingValue” and “Roaring Kitty,” who invested in GameStop more than a year ago and became something of a celebrity on the WallStreetBets subreddit because of his gains during the GME short squeeze.
The lawsuit claims that Gill, through his social media posts, is somehow responsible for Iovine losing money, and that he “incited a market frenzy by advocating revenge on the big hedge funds” by initially investing roughly $60,000 into a company worth billions of dollars. The lawsuit is being written up by news outlets everywhere because it is a lawsuit about one of the biggest stories of the year, not because it seems to make any sense.
Iovine’s lawyers, who are seeking to make this a class action lawsuit, simultaneously claim that Gill’s fantastically popular YouTube videos—most of which have between 1,000 and 5,000 views—were so popular that people unknowingly and unwittingly invested in GameStop, causing its price to skyrocket and that their client had no idea that any of this was happening and thus could not make an informed decision about his own investments.
According to his lawyers, Iovine made a $200,000 options bet on GameStop on January 26th, when GameStop stock skyrocketed from $76 to $347 on January 27th. At the time, GameStop’s meteoric rise—and how it was seemingly caused not by the reality of GameStop's business but by a "short squeeze"—was literally one of the most talked about news stories in the world. And, yet, the complaint claims Iovine was “unaware of Gill’s deceitful social media communications … [and] made these transactions relying on the integrity of the market for GameStop shares … while Gill’s manipulative social media conduct drove the market for GameStop shares into an unjustified frenzy.” The lawyers allege that Iovine's options trades executed when GameStop stock was at or near its peak, and that it later plummeted, causing him to "incur substantial losses."
The crux of the lawyers’ argument is that Gill did not explain that he also is a financial analyst and advisor for a company in Massachusetts, and in not explaining that he “took on the fake persona of an amateur, everyday fellow, who simply was looking out for the little guy,” and thus manipulated the masses.
The lawyers argue GameStop stock went up in value because Gill explained in YouTube videos and Reddit posts why he, personally, was investing in GameStop. These arguments make no sense on the surface, to anyone who has paid even remote attention to the story. A look through Gill’s Reddit posts is quite boring; they consist almost entirely of screenshots of his own investment portfolio (thus, people knew that he was invested in and had an interest in GameStop doing well). On YouTube, it was very obvious that Gill was not an “amateur,” because he made extremely detailed arguments for why he personally was investing in GameStop, including citing the company's quarterly earnings reports and executive leadership.
The lawyers also argue that Gill “created a far-reaching and wildly successful social media campaign in the year leading up to the surge in GameStop shares.”
Whether the lawsuit succeeds or not, it is deeply troubling, as it is, essentially, an attempt by lawyers and a random person to sue another random person for the Crime of Posting.
In this case, a person who made a poor investment decision to extract money from someone who was quite transparent about their actions and their biases (Gill believes GameStop is a good investment, for himself, which he has explained repeatedly for more than a year.) The lawsuit is concerning because it suggests that private citizens can sue other private citizens for social media posts that are not violent, threatening, or, frankly, even all that interesting.
The lawsuit also does not go into detail about all of the other factors that caused GameStop’s meteoric rise and fall back down to Earth. It does not engage seriously with the fact that hedge funds over-shorted the stock and released papers about why it was overvalued (arguably the exact same thing Gill is accused of doing, on a much grander scale), it does not engage seriously with the media frenzy that accompanied GameStop’s rise, and it does not even mention that the Robinhood trading platform restricted users from buying more GameStop stock, which many investors believe caused the stock to plummet in price.
The lawsuit comes on the eve of a hearing about GameStop stock before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services. Gill did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in his written testimony to that committee, he seems to address some of the claims made in the lawsuit: “I did not solicit anyone to buy or sell the stock for my own profit. I did not belong to any groups trying to create movements in the stock price. I never had a financial relationship with any hedge fund. I had no information about GameStop except what was public. I did not know any people inside the company, and I never spoke to any insider,” Gill said.
“The idea that I used social media to promote GameStop stock to unwitting investors is preposterous. I was abundantly clear that my channel was for educational purposes only, and that my aggressive style of investing was unlikely to be suitable for most folks checking out the channel. Whether other individual investors bought the stock was irrelevant to my thesis – my focus was on the fundamentals of the business,” he added. “As for what I expect moving forward: GameStop’s stock price may have gotten a bit ahead of itself last month, but I’m as bullish as I’ve ever been on a potential turnaround. In short, I like the stock.”
Iovine’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.