During the viral frenzy of rumors surrounding Robinhood’s controversial decision to halt buying on popular tickers (including $GME and $AMC), a post from a brand-new Reddit account (u/Odin19199) became a major part of the day’s discourse:
From Robinhood employee posted to Reddit pic.twitter.com/dGgQFZogiL
— Justin Kan (@justinkan) January 28, 2021
The post was shared as a screenshot to Twitter by Justin Kan (@justinkan), following a separate unsourced claim he shared asserting that hedge fund Citadel “reloaded their shorts” just before Robinhood halted trading of $GME and $AMC:
Both claims underscored a secondary commodity during the ongoing GameStop short squeeze — any up-and-coming information about the unfolding situation, and tips about parties to blame for Robinhood’s suspension of trading specific tickers.
Reddit’s profile for u/Odin19199 indicated the account was created around noon on January 28 2021, and its first post was in a thread titled “An Open Letter to Melvin Capital, CNBC, Boomers, and WSB.” The original comment read:
I work for Robinhood. Don’t kill me.
Low-level, technical shit, comp sciences major, not finance side.
Guess what we overhead today?
Vladimir, yes founder Vladimir, received calls from Sequoia Capital and the White House that pressured into closing trading on GME etc. I guarantee you the same took place at E-Trade and the others who closed trading.
File reports on the SEC page. If I wasn’t scared to be out of work in a pandemic I’d quit. I’m disgusted. We all need to rise up, this is as bad as it gets when we talk about how the rich get one set of rules, and the rest of us get screwed 🪛 over, and over, and over again left to bail them out and pick up the tab for their trillion dollar tax breaks. We need to pile pressure on every government and financial institution involved in this travesty of justice.
Immediately thereafter, u/Odin19199 (archived) shared the same post to the then-newly created r/ClassActionRobinHood, under the title “Robinhood Insider Information” and with the typographical error (“overhead”) intact:
When a self-identified employment lawyer advised u/Odin19199 on whistleblowing matters, they responded:
I’m not as scared of getting terminated as I am of getting blackballed. The finance industry is ruthless. They will keep you on staff and not promote or give raises for the rest of your career, relegate you to some corner, and make sure if you quit no one else in the industry will hire you. I’ll speak to Veritas and provide documentation and information anonymously, but I’m not willing to reveal my identity. I’ve seen what’s happened to other whistleblowers and I have a family to take care of.
In one comment (which did not appear to be a reply), u/Odin19199 stated to no one in particular:
Guys I was really heated and upset when I posted this, I’m getting advice from every corner of the internet, Gizmodo, Vice contacting me, people trying to finesse me to reveal my identity, I need to take a moment to make sure I’m protecting myself and taking the appropriate path forward, I have a family and I don’t want to put them through a nightmare. I think I’m going to contact Glen Greenwald, I need to make sure I’m 100% secure. I’m getting a bit overwhelmed. If anything goes wrong RH could sue me out of existence or blackball me. I’ll provide updates soon. I’ll do whatever I can but my priority is my family.
Initially, users on r/ClassActionRobinHood were supportive, and urged u/Odin19199 to take their information to investigative journalists via secure channels. Within a few hours, the thread was locked, and a moderator pinned the following comment to the top of the thread:
Hey guys, there’s some controversy surrounding this post. I have locked comments until further notice while we look into the validity of these claims. Please be considerate of OP, we must maintain privacy and confidentiality as this is a serious topic of discussion that can have potentially significant repercussions. Thank you guys for the understanding.
User Odin19199 repeatedly complained about their inability to share their claim on r/wallstreetbets because their account was so new. After the thread above was locked, a different r/wallstreetbets user (u/Penistown64) posted a thread titled “Stop reposting the obviously fake screenshot from a robinhood ‘insider,'” writing:
WE ARE UNDER A COORDINATED SOCIAL ATTACK IN AN ATTEMPT TO DISCREDIT WSB. There’s a screenshot floating around from a “robinhood insider” (u/odin19199
, sporting a lovely new user badge) who claimed that they “overheard” executives get calls from the white house and whoever the fuck else telling them to shut down GME. I have seen this 69 times today.
How stupid are people that they can actually believe this? YEAH when I’m talking over collusion and market manipulation with the fucking white house I make sure all my IT people can hear me. YEAH totally normal for low-level people to know the intimate details of highly-sensitive conversations.
I can literally make a post right now that suggests that your mom traded a cut of that ass to robinhood to restrict buying gme and it would be just as credible. Hell it’s even more plausible
MAKE NO MISTAKE, THIS IS ANOTHER ATTACK. this post is getting spammed to drum up the narrative that this is an alt-right movement, by targeting the white house as the instigator of these holds. If this becomes viral, if we buy into this and start this whole conspiracy based on a single anonymous redditor, we will be forever associated with another retarded qanon conspiracy. we’ll be irrelevant in a week.
JUST FUCKING HOLD. NONE OF THIS BULLSHIT MATTERS. HOLD.
Edit: just wanted to be clear – just because something CAN happen does not mean that it DID happen. Sure there is a hypothetical way the US government did this and someone overheard it. Yes, on some level, whether active or systemic, the government is involved. But isn’t it more likely these firms, with an incredible incentive to disenfranchise us from the public, made a reddit account and wrote this fanfic for the total cost of $0?
As u/Penistown64 pointed out, u/Odin19199’s story had some implausible elements — namely that a highly sensitive, extremely relevant conversation between Robinhood’s top executives and the White House occurred in earshot of a self-described low-level employee. Moreover, as u/Penistown64 pointed out, there was no risk to invent the story and spam it all over r/wallstreetbets, and many readers (on at least two platforms — Reddit and Twitter) accepted the claim as plausible on its face.
During the $GME and Robinhood saga, information about Robinhood’s decision to halt trading was in nearly as much demand as the ability to buy shares. An unverified and perhaps highly implausible claim by an hours-old Reddit account (u/Odin19199) predictably became virally popular, with no indication it was anything but a bit of creative writing for viral notoriety. Although u/Odin19199 claimed they were making an effort to contact journalists, we found no indication that their claims of even working for Robinhood had been verified. If nothing else, these rumors underscore how easy it is to insert disinformation into hot topics with little effort.