https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/einho ... completely
Interest rates have to go up, and when they do a lot of people will be kicking and screaming.What follows next is a tour de force from Einhorn lashing out at all the ways the market is broken, and how the Reddit insanity of Q1 exposed it for all to see:
The punchline: Einhorn slamming Chamath and Elon for pouring the "real jet fuel" on the GME squeeze:In late January, the market came to focus on companies with large short interests. Despite having a diversified portfolio, a number of our positions fell into this group and experienced sudden, sharp rises. We adjusted to the dynamic by reducing our exposure to single name shorts, both in number and sizing. To mitigate the potentially uncomfortable net long bias that would have resulted, we added macro hedges of market index and index option shorts. While we do not expect this to be a permanent change, we will evaluate and modify as we go. The performance of our short portfolio in 2020 and in early 2021 was unacceptable, so change is certainly needed. If we swing a little less hard, we should hit more balls. We have also revised our internal analyst incentive structure to fully emphasize alpha creation.
Much has been made of the short-squeezes in late January. In fact, Congress held hearings, where it called the leaders of Robinhood, Melvin Capital and Citadel and an individual investor who made a great call on GameStop (GME) to testify. We have a few thoughts about this to share.
First, it is very healthy for market participants to discuss and debate stocks. This is true both privately and publicly. There are rules about fraud and manipulation that need to be followed, but investors discussing why they think GME (or any other stock) should go up or down ought to be encouraged. There is no reason to drag anyone before Congress for making a stock pick.
Second, it is also fine to make bad stock picks. If a hedge fund takes a big position in a stock and is wrong, it loses money. Isn’t this how it is supposed to work?
Third, payment for order flow is just disguised commissions. We are in a world where consumers, especially young ones, expect internet services to be free, or at least free to them. A quote widely attributed to Richard Serra about commercial TV in 1973 says it best: “You’re not the customer; you’re the product.” If you want the broker to work for you, pay a commission.
Fourth, Robinhood suspended trading in certain stocks because it was undercapitalized. It is possible that it wasn’t following the regulatory requirements. A regulatory sanction is probably appropriate – but as we’ll discuss below, we won’t be holding our breath.
Einhorn then concludes with three anecdotes to demonstrate his argument that this is not only an "anything goes" market where crime is rampant, but proving just how broken the market has become.Finally, we note that the real jet fuel on the GME squeeze came from Chamath Palihapitiya and Elon Musk, whose appearances on TV and Twitter, respectively, at a critical moment further destabilized the situation. Mr. Palihapitiya controls SoFi, which competes with Robinhood, and left us with the impression that by destabilizing GME he could harm a competitor. As for Mr. Musk, we are going to defend him, half-heartedly. If regulators wanted Elon Musk to stop manipulating stocks, they should have done so with more than a light slap on the wrist when they accused him of manipulating Tesla’s shares in 2018. The laws don’t apply to him and he can do whatever he wants.
Many who would never support defunding the police have supported – and for all intents and purposes have succeeded – in almost completely defanging, if not defunding, the regulators. For the most part, quasi-anarchy appears to rule in markets. Sure, Dr. Michael Burry, famed for his role in The Big Short, reportedly received a visit from the SEC after tweeting warnings about recent market trends – and decided to stop publicly speaking truth to power. But for the most part, there is no cop on the beat. It’s as if there are no financial fraud prosecutors; companies and managements that are emboldened enough to engage in malfeasance have little to fear.
First, consider the investigation of Tether by the Office of the Attorney General of New York (OAG). As Einhorn explains, "tether is a cryptocurrency that is always worth a dollar (the value is “tethered” to the dollar). Tether is one of the largest cryptocurrencies with about $40 billion outstanding, yet it has not been audited or regulated in any serious manner. In theory, Tether is supposed to have $1 of cash backing every Tether issued. Except it didn’t, at least when it was investigated." Incidentally, for anyone still confused, Tether is how the Chinese launder billions in domestic funds abroad and outside the Chinese firewall as we explained in December, although so far few have the desire to expose this reality. In any case, here is Einhorn's lament:
Einhorn next highlights one of the stocks most hated by the bearish community: GSX:The OAG conducted a two-year probe and found that Tether deceived clients and the market by overstating reserves and hiding approximately $850 million of losses around the globe. Tether and its sponsor, Bitfinex, “recklessly and unlawfully covered up massive financial losses to keep their scheme going and protect their bottom lines,” said the OAG. Further, “Tether’s claims that its virtual currency was fully backed by U.S. dollars at all times was a lie.”
Did the OAG shut down Tether? Did anyone get arrested or even lose their job? Was the regulatory infrastructure changed to make sure this doesn’t happen again? No, of course not. The OAG assessed an $18.5 million penalty and Tether agreed to discontinue “any trading activity with New Yorkers.” It was as if Bernie Madoff had been told to pay a small fine and stop ripping off New Yorkers, but to go ahead and have fun with the Palm Beach crowd.
The professional poker player finally points out some of the insane moves observed in pennystocks in Q1, focusing on a tiny deli owner in rural NJ:The media is focused on how the banks allowed excessive leverage and poorly (or properly) managed their risks. The real story is how Arch-Egos was able to buy up most of the float of GSX Techedu, causing the stock to soar 400% in the face of unrefuted allegations of massive fraud. The SEC has an ongoing investigation of GSX but appears to not have noticed a single fund (or a small group of funds) essentially cornering the market. A traditionalist could say this was market manipulation and transparently illegal.
We don't find it at all surprising that Einhorn's conclusion from his capital markets observations over the past quarter is identical to ours, when we discussed the insane stock moves that dominated much of January and February:Strange things happen to all kinds of stocks. Last year, on one day in June, the stocks of about a dozen bankrupt companies roughly doubled on enormous volume. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported a boom in penny stocks.
Someone pointed us to Hometown International (HWIN), which owns a single deli in rural New Jersey. The deli had $21,772 in sales in 2019 and only $13,976 in 2020, as it was closed due to COVID from March to September. HWIN reached a market cap of $113 million on February 8. The largest shareholder is also the CEO/CFO/Treasurer and a Director, who also happens to be the wrestling coach of the high school next door to the deli. The pastrami must be amazing. Small investors who get sucked into these situations are likely to be harmed eventually, yet the regulators – who are supposed to be protecting investors – appear to be neither present nor curious.
"From a traditional perspective, the market is fractured and possibly in the process of breaking completely."