WallStreetBets (WSB) was a subreddit founded by Jaime Rogozinski in 2012 that became a center for witnessing bold stock trades. WSB members shared pictures of significant trading losses and gains, boasting of a “you only live once” mentality to trading stocks. The community ballooned amid COVID lockdowns as people spent more time at home and delved into online stock trading, often using platforms with zero commission fees like Robinhood.
WSB was the epicenter of the so-called meme stock frenzy, which saw GameStop and AMC soar amid a historic short squeeze. In 2020, Rogozinski filed a lawsuit against Reddit, claiming that the platform wrongfully removed him as a moderator 2020 and infringed on his right to trademark the community’s name. He was removed as a moderator because he violated company policy by “attempting to monetize a community” by establishing an esports trading competition and promoting a book on WSB. Rogozinski seeks an order reinstating him to his former role as subreddit moderator, claiming that he is the owner of the WSB trademark. Reddit has responded that Rogozinski’s lawsuit is a completely frivolous attempt to enrich himself. Let’s take a comprehensive overview of the WSB phenomenon and the lawsuit.
WSB, a subreddit where users share stock trades, became famous in early 2021. WSB was known for its bold stock trades, with community members sharing pictures of significant trading losses and gains. Financial literacy wasn’t the main focus of WSB’s content, but a “you only live once” mentality to trading stocks. WSB ballooned in popularity amid COVID lockdowns as people spent more time at home and delved into online stock trading, often using platforms with zero commission fees like Robinhood.
The WSB phenomenon
WSB was the epicenter of the so-called meme stock frenzy, which saw GameStop and AMC soar amid a historic short squeeze. WSB is a community of people who share a passion for stocks and trading, regardless of their knowledge or experience in the field. WSB’s slogan, “like 4chan found a Bloomberg Terminal,” reflects the community’s ethos of humor and irreverence.
In WSB, members share stock tips, memes, and news stories related to the stock market. The community’s collective ability to drive up the price of a stock is well documented. Keith Gill, a member of WSB, famously made millions by investing in GameStop and became an icon in the battle to pin Wall Street on the losing side of trades.
The subreddit has also received criticism for promoting risky trading behavior, with some investors losing significant amounts of money. Robinhood, a popular trading platform for WSB members, was embroiled in controversy after it suspended trading in GameStop and other stocks amid the frenzy.
The Famous Gamestop phenomenon
The events surrounding GameStop, which saw the stock soar from around $20 to $400 within weeks, was seen by many as a way for the masses to take on Wall Street at its own game. It became a story of David vs. Goliath, with the traders of WSB portrayed as the scrappy underdogs in a battle against the hedge funds and Wall Street firms that had previously held a stranglehold on the financial markets.
But the phenomenon also brought its share of controversies. Critics argued that the group’s trading tactics were based on hype and speculation, rather than any fundamental analysis of the companies in question. Additionally, the fact that the trading surge was driven by a collective social media movement rather than traditional analysis made it difficult for the authorities to regulate.
The GameStop saga also raised questions about the role of Wall Street in the wider economy, and whether hedge funds and other institutional investors were truly acting in the best interests of ordinary investors. It sparked a broader conversation about how the financial industry can be reformed to ensure that ordinary investors have a level playing field.
Despite the controversies, the events of early 2021 were undoubtedly a watershed moment for WSB, as well as for the wider financial industry. The lawsuit filed by Rogozinski against Reddit is the latest chapter in the ongoing story of how WSB has disrupted the traditional power structures of the finance industry.
In 2020, Rogozinski filed a lawsuit against Reddit, claiming that the platform wrongfully removed him as a moderator and infringed on his right to trademark the community’s name. Rogozinski claimed that Reddit’s justification for ousting him as a moderator centered on claims that he violated company policy by “attempting to monetize a community” by establishing an esports trading competition and promoting a book on WSB titled “WallStreetBets: How Boomers Made the World’s Biggest Casino for Millennials.”
Rogozinski’s lawsuit also claimed that Reddit infringed on a federally registered trademark. In late March 2020, Rogozinski filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to secure the use of “WallStreetBets” for commercial use. Reddit went on to file four trademark applications of its own to register “WallStreetBets.”
Rogozinski’s vision for WSB was not just a space for high-risk trading, but also a platform for democratizing finance. As he told Decrypt in a 2021 interview, he wanted WSB to bring trading to the masses, similar to how Robinhood and other fintechs have done.
“There are a lot of people in the United States and globally that are left out of the financial system, for different reasons. It could be because they don’t have enough money, it could be because they don’t have access to the right tools, or it could be because they don’t know enough about finance,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted WallStreetBets to exist in the first place, because I thought it was a way to democratize finance.”
While WSB’s origins may have been in the niche interests of a group of traders on Reddit, the subreddit became the epicenter of a cultural phenomenon, as the trading community used its collective power to orchestrate a historic short squeeze on GameStop and other meme stocks.
The power of social media, combined with the ease of access to trading platforms and the pent-up demand for a challenge to the perceived dominance of traditional Wall Street players, created a perfect storm that forced the finance industry to take notice.
Changing the financial norm
It remains to be seen whether Rogozinski’s lawsuit will succeed in its aims, but what is clear is that the subreddit that he founded has become much more than just a platform for high-risk trading. WSB has become a symbol of the power of the collective, and of the potential for ordinary people to disrupt the status quo. In many ways, WSB has become a cultural phenomenon, a reflection of the changing attitudes towards finance and the role that the financial industry plays in society.
As the financial industry continues to evolve, it is likely that WSB and other communities like it will continue to play a significant role in shaping the way that ordinary people access and participate in the world of finance. While the outcome of Rogozinski’s lawsuit remains uncertain, one thing is clear: the impact of WSB on the finance industry and on popular culture is here to stay.