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When the world’s richest man wants answers, he gets them.
Billionaire Tesla boss Elon Musk pressed Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev to explain why the popular stock app blocked investors from buying shares of GameStop last week.
“Spill the beans, man — what happened last week?” Musk asked Tenev during an early Monday morning broadcast on Clubhouse, an audio-streaming app.
“The people demand an answer, and they want to know the details and the truth,” he added.
Musk’s playful but serious questioning elicited a play-by-play of how the Reddit-fueled surge in GameStop’s share price put Robinhood under intense financial pressure before it placed limits on the video-game retailer’s securities on Thursday.
At the heart of the story is the National Securities Clearing Corporation, or NSCC, a financial institution that clears and settles stock trades between brokers. As Tenev explained, Robinhood has to deposit money to the NSCC based on several factors, such as the volatility of trading activity and “concentration intro certain securities.”
At 3:30 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday — the morning after Reddit’s WallStreetBets message board sparked a flurry of trading in GameStop and other “meme stocks” — Robinhood received a request from the NSCC for a roughly $3 billion deposit, a far larger number than normal, according to Tenev.
“Just to give context, Robinhood, up until that point, has raised … around $2 billion in total venture capital up until now,” Tenev said. “So it’s a big number.”
The NSCC eventually lowered the request to $700 million after Robinhood officials outlined a plan to “manage risk” in GameStop and other volatile stocks on Thursday, according to Tenev.
That was why Robinhood temporarily blocked traders from buying new GameStop shares, a move that sparked widespread outrage and several lawsuits. Robinhood has since allowed its customers to buy limited numbers of GameStop shares and options contracts.
Musk — who expressed support last week for the Reddit forum that’s been waging war on Wall Street short-sellers — said the NSCC should be more transparent about why it asked Robinhood for such a massive deposit.
“I guess people really just want to know — if you had no choice, then you had no choice, it’s a gun-to-the-head situation. And then that’s understandable,” Musk told Tenev. “But then whoever put that gun to your head should be willing to answer to the public.”
“What everyone wants to know is, like, did something maybe shady go down here?” Musk asked the embattled CEO. “It seems weird that you’d get a sudden $10 billion demand, you know, at three in the morning,” he added before Tenev corrected him on the amount.
Tenev replied that he “wouldn’t impugn shadiness to it,” noting that the NSCC worked with Robinhood to reduce the required deposit.
“Is anyone holding you hostage right now?” Musk wondered in response. Tenev tried to reassure him, saying, “No, no, I’m OK.”
The NSCC’s parent company, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, stood by its deposit requirements, saying the NSCC collects money “according to calculations that are set forth in its rules.”
“When volatility increases, portfolio margin requirements increase too, and NSCC clearing members may pass on these costs to their clients, including brokerages that clear through them,” the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation told The Post in a statement. “Margin requirements protect the entire industry against defaults and systemic risk in volatile markets.”
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