Keith Gill, the Redditor/YouTuber seen by many as the central figure in GameStop’s stock price soaring to almost $500 in late January, testified before the House Financial Services committee on Thursday afternoon. It is believed to be the first time the House has accepted sworn testimony from a witness seated in a gaming chair.
Specifically, this gaming chair:
Retailing for $389, it’s Secret Lab’s Omega House Lannister variant, in Lannister Red leather. In fact, it matches a chair seen in a photo accompanying The Wall Street Journal’s interview with Gill on Jan. 29.
Plenty of pop-culture savvy folks tuned in to the committee meeting this morning, which was also carried by CNBC and other outlets. Naturally, something other than Gill, Robinhood chief executive Vladimir Tenev, or the 53 members of the committee, became the star of the hearing.
Impossible to know for sure, but I believe Keith Gill AKA deepfuckingvalue is the first person to testify before conference in a gamer chair pic.twitter.com/eCLAns31zu
— quibi bridgers (@bryanmenegus) February 18, 2021
Gill, 34, is alleged to have made millions as GameStop’s share price went up almost 1,600% thanks to a “short squeeze” phenomenon that pummeled corporate investors betting against the games retailer. He was named in a federal civil lawsuit filed Tuesday, alleging market manipulation.
To the House committee, Gill said he bought GameStop shares for entirely legitimate reasons. “The market was underestimating the prospects of GameStop’s legacy business in overestimating the likelihood of bankruptcy,” he said in a statement. “I grew up playing video games and shopping at GameStop and I plan to continue shopping there. GameStop stores still provide real value to consumers in reliable revenue for GameStop.”
He also told the panel, “I am not a cat.”
Gill bought in well before the squeeze, with a stake of roughly $50,000 in GameStop stock because he felt it was undervalued. GameStop’s share price (until January, of course) had steadily gone down as much of the retail gaming business moves to online transactions, and brick-and-mortar chains in general are hurting.
Gill, however, has 400,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, and a large audience in the anything-goes subreddit r/WallStreetBets. Users organized in that subreddit to hold on to all of their holdings in GameStop, propelling and sustaining the “short squeeze” and badly damaging corporate bankers. Gill kept up the hold-the-line cheerleading on YouTube.
“The idea that I use social media to promote GameStop stock to unwitting investors and influence the market is preposterous,” Gill told the committee. “My post did not cause the movement of billions of dollars into GameStop shares. It is tragic that some people lost money in my heart goes out to them. But what happened in January just demonstrates again, that investing in public securities is extremely risky.”
Asked by Rep. Bill Huizenga if he would still buy GameStop today at its share price (around $40), Gill said he would. Gill’s GameStop holdings, according to Tuesday’s lawsuit, allegedly reached $48 million at the apex of the short squeeze in late January, although Gill has said on Reddit that was a value on paper, he was only able to cash out about $13 million.
The day’s testimony (still ongoing as of publication time) is very technical and verbose, mainly with Democratic committee members hitting Robinhood CEO Tenev, or Citadel hedge fund boss Keith Griffin with questions about their businesses’ relationships, and Republicans giving them a longer rope to explain what happened.
Robinhood, a trading app involved in the trading mania, drew condemnation and vows of regulation and investigation when it halted the purchase of GameStop shares on Jan. 28. Democrats largely viewed that as rigging the complex American investment system against little-guy investors.
Citadel and Robinhood’s representatives told the committee they comply with all regulations and trading obligations, and that is what led Robinhood to put a stop to GameStop buying.
Update: This story has been edited throughout to clear up several inconsistencies due to paper values and the changing worth of securities.