Feds Seized Robinhood CEO's Phone in GameStop Trading Halt Investigation

Robinhood says it is being widely investigated over its role in January's GameStop bonanza; is subject to at least 49 class action lawsuits.
July 1, 2021, 6:31pm
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Image: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Robinhood, the stock trading app that was subject to a record fine Wednesday, announced it intends to go public Thursday.

In its filing documents, the company admits that many of its customers are furious about how it handled January’s GameStop stock bonanza and that it is currently subject of at least 49 class action lawsuits related to trading restrictions it placed on the stock in January. The company also said it is under investigation by a series of regulators, state attorneys general, the SEC, and the U.S. Department of Justice in proceedings associated with the trading restrictions; the company said its CEO Vladimir Tenev has also had his cell phone seized by federal attorneys. 

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In January, Robinhood restricted the purchase of GameStop, AMC, and other "meme" stocks because the app literally did not have enough money to comply with regulations that require a certain amount of liquidity from companies that allow for stock trading. This restriction correlated with a days-long dive in the stock prices of GameStop, which skyrocketed in January and February and led to widespread calls from lawmakers, traders, and Redditors on the WallStreetBets subreddit to investigate Robinhood.

Those investigations are ongoing, according to Robinhood's S-1 filing with the SEC.

In its filing, Robinhood states that the fallout from these restrictions still have the potential to be disastrous for the company. “We have become aware of approximately 50 putative class actions … relating to the Early 2021 Trading Restrictions. The complaints generally allege breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and other common law claims. Several complaints further allege federal securities claims, federal and state antitrust claims and certain state consumer protection claims based on similar factual allegations,” the S-1 states.

It also states that the company and Tenev “have received requests for information, and in some cases, subpoenas and requests for testimony” related to investigations from “the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California ('USAO'), the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, the SEC staff, FINRA, the New York Attorney General’s Office, other state attorneys general offices and a number of state securities regulators. Also, a related search warrant was executed by the USAO to obtain Mr. Tenev’s cell phone.”

“Due to the preliminary nature of all of these proceedings, we are unable at this time to estimate the likelihood or magnitude of any possible losses related to these matters,” the S-1 states.

The company said that the incident was bad for the company and “resulted in negative media attention, customer dissatisfaction, litigation and regulatory and U.S. Congressional inquiries and investigations, capital raising by us in order to lift the trading restrictions while remaining in compliance with our net capital and deposit requirements and reputational harm. We cannot assure that similar events will not occur in the future.”