On Tuesday, February 2nd, Mark Engerman, the Mathematics Department Head, held an informal discussion about the sudden surge in GameStop stocks earlier that week. The meeting, which included both a brief lecture and an open discussion, lasted for around an hour, and was open to both students and faculty.
To give a brief overview of the events, Gamestop is a retail gaming company founded in 1984 in Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately, since the company focuses on selling physical video game disks, it was unable to remain competitive in a market moving towards online streaming and digital downloads. As a result, many large investors predicted that GameStop’s Stocks (GME) would continue to decrease in value, and that the company would soon go bankrupt. However, GME prices began to unexpectedly sky-rocket at the end of January after small investors on online trading forums began invigorating interest in buying GME stocks. This not only caused major hedge funds, who were betting on the company’s decreasing stock value, to lose millions of dollars, but also sparked a controversy around the roles of stock trading apps, hedge funds, and small investors in the market.
The talk began with a brief lecture, and Mark covered some of the basic concepts and terms of the stock market. He started off simple, and defined the significance of stocks, while also explaining how stock prices fluctuate and are traded. Next, he pointed out the differences between small and large investors (for example, hedge funds). In the final part of his lecture, Mark explained the relevant concepts of short-selling and short-squeeze in the stock market. This information helped set the foundation for understanding what was happening with Gamestop last week.
In the second half of the hour, Mark opened up the floor to everyone to discuss the recent news surrounding Gamestop’s stocks. He asked the students and faculty about their opinions on stock trading apps such as Robinhood, and whether checks and balances for larger hedge funds, which usually dominate the market, should be created. People voiced a variety of opinions: some supported the notion of creating new rules, while others were opposed to limiting the freedoms of the market. In addition, although most students had no strong opinions on stock trading apps, there seemed to be a common consensus among the attendees that these apps should have more restrictions to protect amateur investors.
Mark’s discussion about the stock market was not only extremely educational for those who were unfamiliar with the topic, but also interesting for others who were looking to discuss recent news and controversies.