|From: Glenn Petersen||4/25/2021 3:53:51 PM|
|PayPal CEO Dan Schulman: Cryptocurrency Is the Real Deal. And the Superapps Are Coming.|
BY EBEN SHAPIRO
APRIL 25, 2021 6:50 AM EDT
Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal, at the company's offices in San Jose, Calif., in 2016.
(Miss this week’s The Leadership Brief? This interview below was delivered to the inbox of Leadership Brief subscribers on Sunday morning, April 25; to receive weekly emails of conversations with the world’s top CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.)
Like many CEOs on the West Coast, Dan Schulman has a sort of a uniform: blue jeans, black sweater and ostrich-skin cowboy boots. When it came time to replace his boots, Schulman, the CEO of PayPal, used one of the company’s new services to make the purchase. With a few clicks, in a few seconds, he bought the boots and paid for them with Bitcoin. “ Boom,” he says. “It was pretty cool.”
The fintech giant had a record year as the pandemic drove shoppers from stores. Instead, they bought groceries, movies and underwear on their phones and computers. PayPal does business in more than 200 countries and deals in more than 100 currencies. It did a staggering amount of business last year, processing transactions at a rate of 1,000 per second during the peak holiday shopping season. In total, PayPal processed 15.4 billion payments, with a value of $936 billion last year. PayPal also had the most new product launches in its history, including launching QR-code payments in 20 markets around the world in response to demand for germ-free transactions. Another big initiative: helping move digital currency into the mainstream, by adding cryptocurrency services. Schulman recently joined TIME for a conversation on the future of cash, central banks and the security of digital currency.
(This interview is edited and condensed for clarity.)
How much did fear of infection during the pandemic drive lasting changes in how people shop and pay for things?
There were two things that dramatically accelerated the trend of digital payments by as little as three years and maybe as much as five years. And by the way, that’s just continuing to grow at an accelerating rate. The first is, we had no choice. We were all quarantined in our homes. We needed to live. We needed to buy things, and everybody had to buy things online. Eventually that turned from this necessity to convenience. People realized, you don’t have to wait in line at a cashier; it can be delivered whenever you want, you have more choice, more different deals.
No. 2 is everything started to go digital, even in-store, because of hygiene. People wanted to be sure that they could protect their cashiers, and customers wanted to be sure that they were going to be safe. Nobody wanted to touch cash, and that led to a large increase in use of digital forms to not just pay, but to look at menus and to look at offers and that kind of thing in stores.
What does your business look like in the next five to 10 years?
First of all, retail fundamentally changes. It moves from a strategy of, How do I attract people to my storefront?, to basically, How do I optimize for home delivery? How do I optimize around all things digital, online and offline? Effectively the differentiation between those two things disappears. And that means that retailers need to think about, Where do they meet consumers? Consumers aren’t just going to go to their website. They’re going to be in large consumer platforms like TikTok or PayPal or others. The reason Walmart wanted to buy part of TikTok is they wanted to kind of put shopping into that platform. We call it contextual commerce.
It’s the same thing inside PayPal. We know that people will start to utilize wish-list shopping tools, and wish lists are really a form of creating an individualized demand curve. This is what you want. This is the price point that you want it; retailer, if you can give me that, I’ll buy it. And so retailers are coming to where you are looking individually, personalizing offers to you. Retail is going to shift dramatically.
And how are we going to pay for things?
There are probably going to be six to 10 superapps that evolve. You won’t have 50 apps on your phone, because you can’t remember 50 usernames and passwords; you don’t want to put in your financial information into every single one of them; you can’t remember the nav system on all of them. These superapps that will basically intermediate other apps, so you log in once, you have a common password, you have all of your data and information in one place that can be used to feed products and services on that platform. It will make it simpler and easier for the consumer.
So cash is no longer king?
Ten years from now, you will see a tremendous decline in the use of cash. All form factors of payment will collapse into the mobile phone. Credit cards as a form factor will go away, and you will use your phone because a phone can add much more value than just tapping your credit card. And so when all of those things start to happen, then central banks need to rethink monetary policy as well, because you can’t just issue more paper money into the system because people aren’t using paper money. And so this is the advent of digital currencies.
What does this pending shift to digital currencies mean for the financial system as we know it?
In the next five to 10 years, you’re going to see more change in the financial system than you have over the past 10 to 20 years. How do we think about modernizing the existing financial infrastructure? It needs modernization, because it’s inefficient today. If you cash a check, it can take three days for you to get your money. If you do an international remittance, it can take seven days to get your money. And it’s too expensive. The “take rate” across the financial system throughout the world is about 2.8%. For the last 10 years, which, by the way, you’d expect with volume and technological improvements that would drop, but the worst part about the 2.8% is that if you have less income, or are outside of the system, and you’re not affluent, then that take rate is like 1,000 basis points; it’s not 280 basis points. And if you’re really affluent, the take rate is 25 basis points. And so, when you think about it being expensive, exclusionary and efficient, we really need to start to think about, How do you modernize that system? Is there a way that you can do things more efficiently, with less cost, more inclusively, and add more utility into the system?
What is the difference between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from central bank–issued digital currencies?
Central bank–issued digital currencies can also take advantage of distributed ledger technology [DLT] or other modern technologies, but they’re basically digitizing a fiat currency like the U.S. dollar. A digital dollar would be fully backed by the U.S. government, but done in a digital fashion, and that might allow the government to open up Fed funding to other institutions besides banks, potentially companies like PayPal, where you could fund straight from the Fed right into a digital wallet. You wouldn’t have to send out stimulus checks in the mail—just go directly into their digital wallet through a digital currency, instantaneous access, no cost and friction.
Demand on the crypto side has been multiple-fold to what we initially expected. There's a lot of excitement.- DAN SCHULMAN, CEO OF PAYPALYou’ve taken a very deliberate approach to digital currency, investing heavily before introducing a consumer product. Why now?
We’ve been looking at digital forms of currency and DLT for six years or so. But I thought it was early, and I thought the cryptocurrencies at the time were much more assets than they were currency. They were too volatile to be a viable currency. And it was still a little bit too much of people not really understanding what they were going to get into, and what we really wanted to do is make sure that it became a little more mainstream so that we would work hand in hand with regulators before we put anything out into the market.
What’s the demand been like for these new services?
Demand on the crypto side has been multiple-fold to what we initially expected. There’s a lot of excitement. How do we defend against more and more sophisticated cybercrime as all our assets move to digital?
We need to battle cyber in two ways. One, you have to create wide moats and high towers and turrets to try and keep as many bad people out as possible. But it’s impossible to keep bad people out because usernames and passwords are stolen. So the real trick of this is how do you keep data from moving outside. So if you make a transaction [using PayPal], it’s not your username and password that’s giving you permission to do that. It is 130 different variables that we look at on every single transaction, in milliseconds, to be sure that it’s you. It’s this idea of Big Data of really understanding who you are, not who you said you are. Things like two-factor authentication, that’s grade-school stuff. It needs to be much, much more sophisticated than that, and we’ve spent as much as we need to spend to ensure that we do our very best to not allow data to leave our system that isn’t valid. But I will say this for every company around the world: this is an issue that should be front and center.
When did you decide on your look?
I don’t really call it a look. I call it very comfortable. I started this when I was running Virgin Mobile, a long time ago. I’ve been wearing cowboy boots forever. I’ve been wearing jeans and like a black sweater forever. Some people say, “Oh, you went to Silicon Valley.” No, no. This was me way before then.
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|From: Sr K||4/27/2021 6:38:06 PM|
WSJ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
Ant IPO-Approval Process Under Investigation
Focus is on how Jack Ma won speedy permission for stock listing last year
Usually flamboyant entrepreneur Jack Ma, here in 2019, has kept a lower profile since regulators cracked down last fall.
April 27, 2021 10:00 am ET
Beijing is investigating how Jack Ma won speedy approvals for his Ant Group Co.’s stock listing last year, according to people with knowledge of the matter, signaling that state actors are getting embroiled in the crackdown on the tech billionaire.
The central-government investigation, which started early this year, focuses on regulators who greenlighted the initial public offering, local officials who advocated it and big state firms that stood to gain from it. Mr. Ma’s relationships with these state stalwarts are being examined as part of the scrutiny, according to the people.
The probe means uncertainty continues to loom over the future of Ant and controlling shareholder Mr. Ma. The usually flamboyant entrepreneur has kept a low profile since the IPO was stopped last-minute in November. He won’t be allowed to leave China until Ant completes a business overhaul ordered by regulators and the government’s investigation is over, the people say.
In the eyes of China’s top leadership, Ant’s business model, in which lending is driven by big data, endangers the country’s financial system—in part because the company’s banking partners assume most of the risk. Leaders are also concerned that those who stood to benefit from what would have been the world’s largest IPO include a coterie of well-connected individuals and institutions, some influential political families in China and big state funds.
Mr. Ma managed to push the Ant IPO application through various levels of securities regulators in a relatively short time—even as banking regulators were voicing concerns about the business model and were preparing tougher regulations for companies like Ant. The wait to be listed in China is often many months or longer.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||5/14/2021 5:50:39 PM|
|We Found Joe Biden’s Secret Venmo. Here’s Why That’s A Privacy Nightmare For Everyone.|
The peer-to-peer payments app leaves everyone from ordinary people to the most powerful person in the world exposed.
Ryan MacBuzzFeed News Reporter
Katie NotopoulosBuzzFeed News Reporter
Ryan BrooksBuzzFeed News Reporter
Logan McDonaldBuzzFeed Staff
Posted on May 14, 2021, at 3:25 p.m. ET
BuzzFeed News found President Joe Biden’s Venmo account after less than 10 minutes of looking for it, revealing a network of his private social connections, a national security issue for the United States, and a major privacy concern for everyone who uses the popular peer-to-peer payments app.
On Friday, following a passing mention in the New York Times that the president had sent his grandchildren money on Venmo, BuzzFeed News searched for the president’s account using only a combination of the app’s built-in search tool and public friends feature. In the process, BuzzFeed News found nearly a dozen Biden family members and mapped out a social web that encompasses not only the first family, but a wide network of people around them, including the president's children, grandchildren, senior White House officials, and all of their contacts on Venmo.
The president’s transactions are not public, and BuzzFeed News is not identifying the usernames for the accounts mentioned in this story due to national security concerns.
After BuzzFeed News reached out to the White House for this story, all the friends on the president’s Venmo account were removed. A White House spokesperson did not have an immediate comment.
A spokesperson for Venmo did not provide a comment by the time of this story's publication.
Privacy advocates and journalists have warned about Venmo’s privacy problems for years, yet the PayPal-owned app has persisted with features that can place people — including the president of the United States — at risk.
While many critics have focused on how the app makes all transactions public by default, Venmo’s friend lists are arguably a larger privacy issue. Even if a Venmo account is set to make payments private, its friend list remains exposed. There is no setting to make this information private, which means it can provide a window into someone’s personal life that could be exploited by anyone — including trolls, stalkers, police, and spies.
No other major social network or service has contact-based friend lists that are publicly accessible by default to anyone — and that cannot be made private. People use Venmo to get paid, often using their real names. They often also import their phone contact lists or Facebook friend list — something the app highly encourages when you sign up — creating networks where people are automatically “friended” with dozens if not hundreds of other Venmo users and allowing them to find people they want to pay more easily. Venmo makes it impossible for users to hide their list of friends. To remove someone as a friend, a user has to unfriend the person manually.
Several former Venmo employees told BuzzFeed News that Venmo’s public transaction feed and friend lists were integral to the app’s early design. Launched in 2009 as a simple and free way to transfer money between friends, it relied heavily on the social dynamics pioneered on Facebook. People were unafraid to publicly share that they had paid their friends for pizza after a night out or were splitting a gas bill among their roommates.
The idea, according to one former engineer, is that building off someone’s social network was a much easier way for someone to trust who they were paying or receiving money from. Since then, the app has become one of PayPal’s main drivers of growth, clearing $51 billion in payments during the first three months of 2021.
At a first glance, disclosing connections among people may seem trivial: Who cares if you know whom someone is connected to? But these public connections can be used to expose very private information. Using the public friend list, for example, a motivated fan was able to figure out who won a season of The Bachelor.
Some examples are much more serious. US government agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration have used this feature in criminal cases, such as in the overdose death of rapper Mac Miller.
Using public friend lists and transaction feeds, BuzzFeed News found two members of Congress who were roommates in Washington, DC, as well as reporters who were on friend lists with Trump administration officials, potentially exposing sources. BuzzFeed News also has also spoken with survivors of domestic violence and abuse who suspected that former partners used Venmo to track them and therapists who use Venmo to receive payment from clients who were unaware that their friend lists showed who they were working with.
Last year, Nick Cadena, then a student at Louisiana State University, told BuzzFeed News he had been the victim of an impersonation scam on Venmo. A scammer took his photo and profile details and created a similar account, and then used it to request money from Cadena’s friends. Some people completed the transactions, believing that they were paying the real Cadena.
“Venmo’s privacy failures are already a big problem for everyday folks who use Venmo, and that's been the case for years,” Gennie Gebhart, the acting activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, told BuzzFeed News. “All of those problems are magnified when we’re talking about a major public figure.”
Ever since 1998, when Bill Clinton sent an email to then-senator John Glenn, presidents have struggled to use new technology while safeguarding national security and complying with public records laws. After months of wrangling, Barack Obama was allowed to use a personal BlackBerry while in office, Donald Trump’s Twitter account was reportedly hacked by correctly guessing his password — maga2020! — and candidate Hillary Clinton faced her own controversy after she set up a private email server at her home while she was secretary of state.
But Venmo poses a new challenge, and this is not the first time a government official’s Venmo account has been easily discovered through publicly available information. In early 2017, people found White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s Venmo account and spammed it. The account of Trump's daughter Tiffany was also found. This year, transactions between Rep. Matt Gaetz and alleged sex trafficker Joel Greenberg appeared to pay three young women for “tuition” and “school.” (In an op-ed Gaetz claimed he had “ never, ever paid for sex.” Greenberg pleaded guilty to federal charges.)
Accounts belonging to celebrities have also been found, and in 2017, privacy researcher Hang Do Thi Duc created the Public by Default project, which scraped public Venmo transitions for the word “drugs.” The project revealed how much people probably don’t notice what their privacy settings are, even when doing highly personal transactions.
Venmo’s parent company PayPal settled an FTC suit in 2018 over how it allegedly failed to properly explain its privacy settings. “We are pleased to conclude this process with the FTC in a cooperative way,” a PayPal spokesperson said at the time, and while Venmo streamlined its settings, crucially, transactions were still left public by default for new users.
President Biden’s transactions were not public, and he had fewer than 10 friends on Venmo. But he was easily verifiable given the people he was connected to, including an account that appears to be for his wife, first lady Jill Biden. Jill Biden’s account, in turn, was linked to various aides, senior Biden staffers, and family members, including an account that appears to be for the president's son Hunter Biden.
“For one of the most heavily guarded individuals in the world, a publicly available Venmo account and friend list is a massive security hole. Even a small friend list is still enough to paint a pretty reliable picture of someone's habits, routines, and social circles,” Gebhart said.
On Friday, the Times wrote that a Biden adviser said the president “had sent the grandchildren money using Venmo.” Some of those grandchildren are locatable on Venmo, posing an avenue for possible harassment. On the accounts for at least two extended family members, BuzzFeed saw that the same stranger had spammed them with requests, asking them to get President Biden to give him money.
“If somebody wanted to map out the activities of the first family, they could just look at their activities on the social network and figure out what the family is up to by looking at what the what their associates are doing,” Vahid Behzadan, the director of the Secure and Assured Intellect Learning Lab at the University of New Haven, told BuzzFeed News. “I assume that the extended associates, like friends, grandchildren, don’t enjoy the same level of security as the first family, and so it may be easier to monitor them passively through their network.”
By finding these accounts, a person could physically stalk the president, his aides, or members of his family, creating a physical risk for the White House. There are also espionage risks. A spy or political opponent could also use this information to find out personal information about those close to the president, or to pose as a member of Biden's inner circle and communicate with the president or others under false pretenses. There are other possible consequences. A connection between a White House official and a journalist, for example, could potentially expose a whistleblower.
“This is a great example of why apps with social features should not default to allowing strangers to see each others’ data,” said Stanford University professor and former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos. “As we’ve seen with other products such as exercise apps, national security–sensitive information can be easily gathered by intelligence services as well as from more prosaic adversaries, such as abusive spouses and stalkers.”
We Found Joe Biden's Secret Venmo. Here’s Why That’s A Privacy Nightmare For Everyone (buzzfeednews.com)
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|From: Glenn Petersen||5/21/2021 9:38:48 AM|
|Robinhood will give retail investors access to IPO shares|
PUBLISHED THU, MAY 20 202111:44 AM EDT
UPDATED THU, MAY 20 20211:34 PM EDT
Maggie Fitzgerald @MKMFITZGERALD
-- Robinhood said it is giving retail investors access to IPO shares.
-- Retail traders typically don’t have a vehicle to buy into newly listed companies until those shares begin trading on an exchange.
-- Robinhood will not be an underwriter for companies hitting the public markets but the stock trading company will get an allocation of shares by partnering with investment banks.
-- It is unclear if Robinhood clients will be able to invest in Robinhood’s pending market debut.
Robinhood is giving amateur investors access to initial public offering shares in its latest move to democratize retail investing.
IPO shares have historically been set aside for Wall Street’s institutional investors or high-net worth individuals. Retail traders typically don’t have a vehicle to buy into newly listed companies until those shares begin trading on an exchange, which is often after the share price has surged.
“We’re starting to roll out IPO Access, a new product that will give you the opportunity to buy shares of companies at their IPO price, before trading on public exchanges. With IPO Access, you can now participate in upcoming IPOs with no account minimums,” Robinhood said in a blog post Thursday.
Robinhood will not be an underwriter for companies hitting the public markets but will get an allocation of shares by partnering with investment banks.
This move is Robinhood’s latest to antagonize Wall Street. IPO stock pops on the first day averaged 36% in 2020, according to Dealogic, demonstrating individual investor thirst for some of these popular names that is not priced into IPO pricing. These are gains the little guy is missing out on.
The traditional IPO process has been criticized in recent years as being broken, with investment banks allotting the shares to big clients who reap the instant first-day gains. Going public by way of direct listing has combated some of these criticisms.
Figs IPO to be the first
Using IPO Access, Robinhood clients will be able to request to buy shares at their initial listing price range. When the final price is set, clients will be able to go through with the purchase, change or cancel.
Medical scrubs company Figs — which filed its paperwork to go public to the SEC on Thursday — will be the first company to offer its share on the Robinhood app.
“We currently anticipate that up to 1.0% of the shares of Class A common stock offered hereby will, at our request, be offered to retail investors through Robinhood Financial, LLC, as a selling group member, via its online brokerage platform,” Figs said in its S1 filing document.
“This is the first initial public offering to be included on the Robinhood platform and there may be risks associated with the use of the Robinhood platform that we cannot foresee, including risks related to the technology and operation of the platform, and the publicity and the use of social media by users of the platform that we cannot control,” the company added.
The IPO date isn’t set, but companies typically go public one to months after their S1 prospectus is filed with the SEC.
It is unclear if Robinhood clients will be able to invest in Robinhood’s pending IPO. The stock trading app is expected to go public in the first half of 2021 and has filed confidentially with the SEC.
IPO Access will be rolled out to all clients over the next few weeks.
Robinhood’s IPO product comes on the heels of record levels of new, younger traders entering the stock market during the pandemic. That surge has continued into 2021, marked by frenzied trading around so-called meme stocks like GameStop.
Online finance start-up SoFi made a move similar to Robinhood’s in March; however, Sofi will be an underwriter for its offered IPOs.
Robinhood to give retail investors access to IPO shares (cnbc.com)
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|To: Thehammer who wrote (173)||5/27/2021 4:52:18 AM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Figs will only be allocating 1% of their IPO shares to the Robinhood customers. Good luck getting a piece of that. I suspect that the really hot IPOs will not be participate in the Robinhood program. Good publicity for Robinhood, which may be doing their own IPO in June.|
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (174)||5/27/2021 9:39:16 AM|
|IPO syndicates are strange animals. Some of it may depend on how well they move the non hot issues and relationships they develop on the street. Bottom line though is the the street only has 5 loaves and 2 fish and no opportunity for divine intervention.|
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|From: Glenn Petersen||6/19/2021 6:12:31 PM|
|The most serious issue that could be causing the delay involves a core element of its business, payment for order flow. Robinhood generates revenue through rebates for sending trade orders to high-frequency trading firms and market makers. This suggests there's an incentive for Robinhood to encourage customers to make more trades. Critics, including new SEC Chairman Gary Gensler, say the practice presents an inherent conflict of interest.|
What’s up with Robinhood’s IPO?
The company's trading business is on fire, fueled by payments for order flow. Is the key to its success also the reason why we still haven't seen its S-1 filing?
June 17, 2021
Where did Robinhood's IPO go?
It's been nearly three months since the company kicked off the process of going public. But since Robinhood announced on March 23 that it had submitted a confidential draft registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, not much has been heard about one of the year's most anticipated public trading debuts.
That could change next week. Robinhood, which had been expected to pull the trigger this month, reportedly now plans to hold its IPO after the July 4 holiday break. That means the company would have to file its IPO disclosures, known as an S-1, publicly with the SEC by next week in order to meet the requirement of doing so 15 days before the first day of trading. (That's assuming it skips the traditional roadshow where companies present their financials to investors; during the pandemic, those have generally been held over Zoom on a compressed timetable, and a company as well-known as Robinhood may feel it doesn't need to do the dog-and-pony show.)
But Robinhood has had a rough year, which experts speculate could be the reason for the delay. The company began its IPO process after a series of high-profile controversies. The biggest one, the GameStop trading frenzy in January, led to congressional hearings and closer regulatory scrutiny that some experts say could even affect its business model.
"It's been a bumpy road," David Musto, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, told Protocol. "People are generally bullish on it. But there's just this big question mark."
Robinhood, whose trading app blazed the trail in commission-free retail investing, was valued at about $12 billion late last year. It's expected to be worth as much as $40 billion when it goes public.
The company could not be reached for comment — understandably so, given the quiet period requirement for companies in the process of going public. It also would not be surprising that, like most IPOs, its registration has been subjected to rigorous SEC review.
"Every IPO gets pushback from the SEC," Santa Clara University law professor Stephen Diamond told Protocol. "It's expected that you're going to get comments, you're going to have to make revisions. You could easily go through four or five amendments over a period of several months, and, from start to finish, the process could take six to nine months to get out the door."
But Robinhood is going public under unusual circumstances. Events in the last six months could have led to closer scrutiny of the company from the SEC, experts say.
R.A. Farrokhnia, a Columbia Business School professor and executive director of the school's Advanced Projects and Applied Research in Fintech initiative, said Robinhood "came to the forefront of the conversation" about retail investors and questions on whether its app "makes it too easy or gamifies" stock trading.
The GameStop trading controversy in January turned the spotlight on allegations that Robinhood had made stock investing too risky for young and inexperienced investors drawn to stocks not by their fundamentals but by buzz on social media. And the company clearly failed to manage the PR fallout which led to "a reputational hit," Farrokhnia said.
At one point, Robinhood was forced by stock clearinghouses to halt purchases of GameStop shares, a fiasco that triggered lawsuits. Diamond said that could have prompted the SEC to ask, "OK, you're dealing with a lot of litigation. What's going to happen with these class-action lawsuits?"
He said the SEC will likely also pick apart the company's finances after it appeared to face a sudden capital crunch during the GameStop incident. The company raised $3.4 billion in new capital in February at the height of the trading frenzy, including $1 billion to meet deposit requirements to support customer trades.
"There's some big questions raised about the $3 billion emergency cash infusion that they got right in the middle of the GameStop crisis," Diamond said. "I don't think anyone in the public realm is satisfied with the explanations provided by [Robinhood CEO] Vlad Tenev in any of his public appearances."
The delay could also be due to demands from institutional investors that Robinhood is trying to woo. The company is allowed to talk to institutional investors privately, and these institutions may have requested changes in the way the company is set up, Diamond said. For example, he said, an institutional investor, such a major pension fund, may have asked, "Where are your independent directors? That's what we care about. Because we want adult supervision."
That might explain Robinhood's June 1 announcement that it was adding three new independent directors.
The most serious issue that could be causing the delay involves a core element of its business, payment for order flow. Robinhood generates revenue through rebates for sending trade orders to high-frequency trading firms and market makers. This suggests there's an incentive for Robinhood to encourage customers to make more trades. Critics, including new SEC Chairman Gary Gensler, say the practice presents an inherent conflict of interest.
"We all know that Congress and the SEC are looking hard at payment for order flow," Musto said. That could be an issue that Robinhood is being asked to address, he added: "The regulatory landscape could change in a way that makes it less lucrative to do what they do."
Diamond echoed this view, noting that payment for order flow is a key part of how Robinhood makes money. "Any constraints on that would obviously put a crimp in their revenue growth," he said. He said the SEC could be asking them: "Do you have sufficient disclosure in the registration statement about the impact on your business model of any potential regulations on payment for order flow?"
However, it is unlikely that these questions would completely derail Robinhood's intention to go public, Diamond said.
"It's extremely rare for the SEC to say to accompany, 'No, you're not going public,'' he said. But major aspects of Robinhood's business, including the lawsuits, its cash reserves and the potential impact of new regulations, "are all going to get a very close look," which could be slowing the process down.
"The bankers may have been telling them 'It's a hot IPO market, let's get out there,'" he said. "They're telling their VCs, 'This is a great market. Let's get out there in the spring.' It could be that the SEC said, 'Wait a minute.'"
Where is Robinhood’s S-1 filing? - Protocol — The people, power and politics of tech
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