Dumb Money

A Trader’s Review of Dumb Money

By:Julia Spina

The film follows the media’s dubious David and Goliath narrative

Dumb Money, a film based on the book The Antisocial Network, tells the story of the infamous 2021 GameStop (GME) rally and the events leading up to it. The movie, released in September 2023, follows the stories of several retail traders throughout the GME saga, as well as tracing the timelines of key players, such as Keith Gill (Roaring Kitty), Citadel’s Ken Griffin, Melvin Capital’s Gabriel Plotkin, and Robinhood’s Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt.

Overall, I enjoyed Dumb Money and found it funny. I especially enjoyed watching the antics of hedge fund giants and Robinhood executives who were perfectly out of touch and thoroughly dislikable.

My biggest criticism of the movie was with the core messaging.

Beyond glorifying bad investment practices, Dumb Money offers up a textbook David and Goliath narrative that echos the way so many media outlets were covering the GME saga as it unfolded. The film focuses on a collective of retail traders led by Roaring Kitty, who band together to drive up the price of GME and force the callous, greedy industry executives into financial ruin. This is an approachable story, but the reality is that GameStop presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for retail traders and institutional investors alike.

The hidden side of this story is that institutional investors were likely involved in the price action of GME—perhaps more so than the retail market. In February 2021, CNBC reported institutional investors had been responsible for driving a large part of GME’s price action in the last week of the rally, which included the peak of GME’s volatility and all-time high of $483.

Evidence for institutional involvement can also be observed in GME’s market capitalization, which reached a staggering $21 billion during the peak of the volatility after sitting around $1.3 billion a month earlier. In some cases, institutional investors also profited significantly from GME’s unprecedented volatility, such as one hedge fund that made $700 million on GameStop according to The Wall Street Journal.

While I appreciated the way they dramatized the “crusade” side of the GameStop saga, this David and Goliath battle most likely ended as a battle among Goliaths trying to cannibalize each other.

Julia Spina is the CEO of Bad Trader, author of The Unlucky Investor’s Guide to Options Trading, and former researcher and co-host at tastylive. @financephoton

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