Jordan Belfort knows a thing or two about stock market manipulation, especially since he was jailed for 22 months after running a penny-stock scam. So who better to ask about the current GameStop situation than The Wolf of Wall Street star himself? The former stockbroker standout gave some friendly advice to novice investors thinking they will beat the system.
A legion of Reddit revolutionaries led a revolt against hedge funds that attempted to short-sell the GameStop stock into submission. As of Friday, hedge funds and other financial institutions shorting GameStop stock had suffered estimated losses of $19 billion.
Amateur investors inflicted major damage on supposedly sophisticated hedge funds. Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management fell by as much as 15% so far this month, Sundheim’s D1 Capital Partners lost 20%, and Gabe Plotkin’s Melvin Capital plunged 30% through Friday.
Belfort understood why Redditors and others are furious at the financial systems because “Wall Street rips off America all the time.”
“It’s shocking, and really amazing and gratifying, to see a little bit of the pain going on the side of the hedge funds,” Belfort told Sky News. “The hedge funds have been beating up little investors since the beginning of time pretty much.”
Belfort cautioned novice investors, “While this will be short-lived… everyone’s got to be really careful, because it’s going to be like catching a falling knife when it unravels.”
He also warned the Redditors of WallStreetBets that the hedge funds would come back with avengeance even if they tried to hold the line with the $GME stock.
“The danger is that Wall Street and hedge funds especially are experts at identifying what we call ‘inefficiencies in the market,'” Belfort stated. “This is an inefficiency in the market right now and they will look to close that inefficiency very quickly.”
“This is 1999 all over again and that’s why I’m begging everyone to please be careful here,” Belfort warned. “When the average person gets in, that’s the time it’s going to actually crash. You never know when that moment’s going to come. It’s going to come, of course, because things will eventually see their fundamental value.”
“Just remember, every time the market goes up, GameStop goes up, it’s going to be harder and harder to make that next move up because the market cap is just not sustainable,” he said. “So, at a certain point, someone has to be crossing out the people who are selling and moving on to the next one.”
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to make money – everyone’s bored and locked up – but just be careful and make sure whatever you invest in these type of hot stocks, make sure you invest only what you can afford to lose,” the famous stockbroker advised. “And if you happen to make money, pull the original investment out and play with the house’s money. That’s my advice to everybody.”
“The shorts against the longs, and usually the shorts were right…every once in a while they get it wrong, but usually they’ve done deep research,” Belfort told CNN host Brooke Baldwin.
“It’s shocking to me that a bunch of individual investors could muster enough buying power to do this, but it just shows the power of the internet and forums like Reddit,” Belfort complimented r/WallStreetBets.
When asked if Redditors manipulated the GameStop stock, Belfort stated, “There’s a very fine line between collusion and trading. If you wanted to understand why the platforms are shutting this down, I believe it’s not so much that they’re on the side of big business or big hedge funds — they have massive liability on their side.”
As far as advice to Redditors, he proposed that the neophyte speculators should “keep it going,” but use more discretion when selecting stocks. He also suggested that they alter their strategy of targeting hedge funds’ shorts “out of spite,” and to select undervalued companies.
In the end, Belfort doesn’t believe that Redditors will face the same prison fate he did for manipulating the stock market.
“The problem is it is sort of this loose collision where one person says ‘Let’s stick together and stay strong.’ And theoretically, that’s illegal,” Belfort explained. “But I doubt that the [U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)] would try to make a case out of something like that.”
“The ones getting in at the end of the party … there are going to be some massive victims in this, most certainly,” The Wolf of Wall Street inspiration said. “There is some sort of loose crime going on, but it’s going to be a very tough one to prove, I think.”