Keith Gill, the Wilmington man whose big gains on GameStop stock made him the face of a stunning market rally, told a congressional committee Thursday that he was simply an investor who believed in the retailer’s business — and that he was not involved in any coordinated effort to affect the stock price.
Gill, known on his YouTube channel as “Roaring Kitty” and on Reddit as “Deep[Expletive]Value,” testified before the House Committee on Financial Services alongside other key players in January’s wild increase in GameStop’s stock price. They included a top executive from a hedge fund that reportedly took big losses on a bet against GameStop, as well as executives from the online trading app Robinhood and the social media platform Reddit.
The committee is looking into issues that were raised by the extreme trading in GameStop, particularly in the Reddit community known as Wallstreetbets. At one point, Robinhood blocked users from making new investments in GameStop and a handful of other stocks popular with investors who are active online, citing the financial strain of regulatory obligations related to the rapid increase in transactions.
Gill characterized himself as a regular guy who made a risky investment in GameStop after doing substantial research on the company. He disputed, however, that he played a significant role in its market surge.
“The idea that I used social media to promote GameStop stock to unwitting investors and influence the market is preposterous,” he said. “My posts did not cause the movement of billions of dollars into GameStop shares.”
He has said on Reddit that an initial investment of about $53,000 had paid off to the tune of millions of dollars. Gill’s most recent Reddit post, on Feb. 3, revealed he had a cash balance of almost $14 million and still owned 50,000 GameStop shares, with options on more.
Gill appeared via videoconference, wearing a suit and tie in a departure from his usual attire in online videos, which can include printed T-shirts and backward ballcaps. In the background, however, he displayed a kitschy workplace poster of a kitten, with the caption “Hang in there!” Also hanging behind him was a red headband that he often wore in online presentations.
The hearing took place as Gill faces an inquiry from the office of Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, which is looking into whether Gill’s social media activity complied with state regulations.
Gill, who until last month worked for the financial services company MassMutual, holds licenses to sell most kinds of investments and offer financial advice. A key question for regulators is whether Gill’s online posts were a private hobby or a professional endeavor that should have been disclosed to his employer.
On Tuesday, Gill and his former employer were named as defendants in a proposed class-action lawsuit that claims he misled individual investors who bought shares of GameStop during its 1,700 percent rally only to suffer losses when the stock quickly gave back most of those gains.
MassMutual has said it is reviewing the matter.
Gill said when speaking to the committee Thursday that he did not sell stocks as part of his job at the company. where he produced content for use in a financial wellness education program.
GameStop, which traded for most of last year in the $4 to $5 range, briefly hit $483 per share in late January. On Thursday, it fell 11 percent to $40.69.
Gill was not a focal point of the hours-long hearing, which largely focused on the mechanics of the stock market, the decision by Robinhood to temporarily suspend buying of GameStop, and how to make sure individual investors are treated fairly by the powerful interests on Wall Street.
Some questioned him on his investment philosophy; others congratulated him on his success. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York City Democrat, attempted to question Gill about his regulatory status, but her time for questioning ran out before he answered.
Asked by another lawmaker whether he’d say GameStop stock remains a good investment, he said he would. He noted, however, that not everyone would agree. Gill said later that when he initially invested in the stock in mid-2019, at around $5 per share, he thought it was “possible but a very low probability” that it would hit the heights it reached late last month. He said he continues to own shares.
On Reddit, Wallstreetbets members greeted Gill’s appearance as the return of a conquering hero, delighting in his small references to the message board’s culture. They launched a fusillade of memes, for instance, when he said the commonly used line “I like the stock.”
“This man is an absolute legend,” one user wrote. “Put him on the ballot in 2024.”
Gill, in his written testimony, characterized his investing as a personal pursuit — and a somewhat lonely one at first. He noted that, before the GameStop rally, his online activity got little attention, even from fellow users. He described his audience at the end of last year as “tiny.”
“The reality was people didn’t really care about boring, repetitive analysis of GameStop and other stocks, and that was fine,” Gill said.
Gill said his investment success was a bright spot in a difficult 2020, a year in which his sister, Sara, died unexpectedly. He also said that when he landed the job at MassMutual in 2019, it was a respite from a long period of professional uncertainty as he bounced between jobs in the financial industry.
The increase in his stock holdings around the holidays gave him and his family something to be happy about, Gill said in written testimony.
“It brought me tremendous joy to share good news with my family for a change,” he said. “I am grateful to be able to give back to my community and to support my family, most of all my wife Caroline who has stuck with me through very tough times.”
Material from The New York Times was used in this report.