U.S. lawmakers question China’s role in GameStop Pump
U.S. lawmakers are expected to question a trader named Keith Gill and the CEOs of Reddit and Robinhood about their roles in the GameStop frenzy during a congressional hearing later this week. But some have another concern: whether China is involved.
Several Republican lawmakers from the House Financial Services Committee plan to examine Reddit’s ties to Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent and Robinhood rival Moomoo, according to one Political report. Moomoo is a wholly owned subsidiary of Futu Holdings, also backed by Tencent.
These Republicans are said to be concerned about possible manipulation by Chinese companies in the inflation of GameStop shares through the Robinhood trading app and some Reddit day traders.
It is not clear in the report why these lawmakers want to investigate these Chinese companies and what specific questions they plan to ask in the hearing, which takes place on Thursday, according to the ad by Representative Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.), who chairs the committee.
However, the GameStop audience comes at a time when techno nationalism is high in the United States and China. Policymakers have imposed – or attempted to impose – restrictions that accelerate the decoupling of digital platforms, supply chains and knowledge networks.
“We live in an age of increased competition between Chinese technology and so-called Western technology,” said James Cooper, associate dean at the California Western School of Law, who has been a consultant to the US State Department, advising on emerging technologies. .
He said investigating whether malicious Chinese actors manipulated GameStop’s price was “political theater.” Tencent and Moomoo did not respond to requests for comment at the time of posting.
Focus on China
Political theater aside, there may be several reasons why these lawmakers are turning to China. One is the possibility of the eagerness of Chinese retail investors to jump into the GameStop stock market frenzy. The other is the continued influence of Chinese trading apps in the United States.
China has a few 167 million retail investors who own more than 28.5% of the total market value of the Chinese stock market (around $ 200 billion). Chinese retail investors can trade GameStop stocks through Chinese online brokerage platforms with licenses from US brokers, such as Moomoo and Webull. Moomoo and Webull, which are major rivals of Robinhood in the United States, are respectively founded by former employees of Tencent and Alibaba.
Webull became the second most popular app in the United States at a time when online brokers weren’t allowed to buy GameStop and AMC Entertainment shares. Both Webull and Moomoo have become alternative platforms for retail investors as Robinhood grapples with the backlash caused by its trading restrictions.
Webull started offering trading services for cryptocurrencies in 2020. Over the past year, the number of brokerage clients has increased tenfold to over 2 million users. While his current user base is paltry compared to Robinhood’s 13 million, Webull said he has removed users from his rival, according to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek.
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Retail investors seemed to have turned towards Webull after Robinhood stopped trading in some stocks that were being pumped out by the Reddit group, including GameStop. However, Webull subsequently ceased such trading, claiming that his clearing company told him to stop opening new positions in certain stocks.
Concerns from lawmakers over Reddit’s ties to Tencent may stem from a $ 300 million Series D funding round in February 2019, when the Chinese company invested $ 150 million as a lead investor.
Tencent’s funding quickly drew criticism from Reddit users who prioritize privacy and denounce censorship. However, some analysts I think it is unlikely that Tencent can control the content of the platform.
San Francisco-based Moomoo is part of Futu Inc.’s efforts to expand its business into the United States in addition to Futu’s success in mainland China. Founded by Hua Li, one of Tencent’s first employees in 2012, Futu is one of the largest online brokerage platforms in China and allows retail users in mainland China to trade stocks listed in Hong Kong and the United States. United States.
Futu Inc. is a registered brokerage with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and is a member of both the Financial Industry Regulatory Association and the Securities Insurance Protection Corporation (SIPC), according to a statement on its website.
Futu Mark one of the largest Asian initial public offerings of 2019 on the Nasdaq and aims to be a major player in online brokerage services for retail investors around the world.
Li owns 40.2% of the shares of Futu with more than 71% of the voting rights, while Tencent owns 30.3% of the shares of the company with 26.2% of the voting rights, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission. deposit as of April 27, 2020.
Webull is a subsidiary of Fumi Technology, which was founded in 2016 by Alibaba alumnus Anquan Wang in Hunan, China.
Webull follows the same regulations as any other U.S. brokerage firm and stores user data locally, with an office in lower Manhattan, according to the Bloomberg report.
Webull has voluntarily requested a review of his ownership by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (Cfius), a panel which seeks to prevent certain Chinese companies from expanding in the United States for reasons of national security, the director said. general of the company, Anthony Denier. , said in the report.