Thursday, March 4, 2021

US Treasury Secretary Yellen convenes US market regulators to discuss GameStop

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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will hold a meeting Thursday with top financial market regulators to discuss recent trading volatility that saw shares like GameStop soar last week.

Yellen said officials will be “looking carefully at these events,” although she did not commit to taking any action.

The volatility was created after a social-media-fueled buying frenzy for stocks that were shorted by hedge funds, including of video game store GameStop, which surged over 400 percent before falling sharply.

Yellen this week called for the meeting with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the New York Federal Reserve Bank and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to review the volatility.

“We really need to make sure that our financial markets are functioning properly, efficiently and that investors are protected,” she said in her first television interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday.

“We’re going to discuss these recent events and discuss whether or not the recent events warrant further action.”

The events under review erupted when a group of small-time investors on Reddit joined forces to try to thwart hedge funds that made massive bets that the shares would fall.

Instead of declining, the wave of buying boosted the share prices of struggling companies, including GameStop and movie theater brand AMC Entertainment.

But the share prices fell sharply when the frenzy subsided.

– Need for action? –

The events led to some retail investor apps such as Robinhood — which says its goal is to “democratize finance for all” — to limit trading in some of the most volatile stocks last week, drawing the ire of critics.

Progressive US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren called for action against what they said were Wall Street abuses by hedge funds.

“We need an SEC investigation,” Warren told CNN Sunday. “It’s a rigged game, and it’s been a set of players who come in and manipulate the market.”

But Yellen said “we need to understand deeply what happened before we go to action.”

Yellen’s role, however, is limited to convening and consulting, since Treasury does not have jurisdiction over stock market activity, which is the purview of the SEC and CFTC.

But she has long experience with the issues as a former chair of the Federal Reserve and member of the board for many years, as the central bank monitors all financial market activity for potential risks to the economy.

Treasury also chairs the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), which monitors financial risks to coordinate better policy action

The FSOC brings together the SEC, CFTC and other banking and housing regulators, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Yellen had to receive a waiver from ethics lawyers at Treasury to hold the discussion about market activity, as she had received at least $700,000 in speaking fees from hedge fund Citadel, a key player in the GameStop saga, according to US media reports.

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