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GameStop and a Modern-Day David vs. Goliath

Is this the new Occupy Wall Street movement with a massive sling shot?

Wall Street bets against companies all the time, thinking that they are overvalued, destined to fail, or both. The reality is that at any given time, the big companies are usually getting a lot of attention from institutional short-sellers. In fact, heading into 2021, the institutional shortsellers were betting that the stock price would fall for:

• Intel;

• Apple;

• and

• Snowflake.

But Wall Street bets against smaller companies too and as you know, GameStop was one of them. After all, the company was a brick-and-mortar company operating in a digital world during a pandemic and had announced on December 8th of 2020 that it was closing 1,000 stores (after closing 783 over the previous two years).

Sure, GameStop executives were suggesting that the worst was over, especially after trimming losses to about $19 million in 2020, which was much better than the losses of $83 million in 2019 and $485 million in 2018. But Wall Street wasn’t buying it – especially two Wall Street hedge funds named Citron Research and Melvin Capital – as both took short positions expecting GameStop’s stock to fall.

Those two hedge funds (as well as others who shorted GameStop) were simply investing – betting – against GameStop’s success.  And shorting is a risky position, especially since any positive news about a company can push up a stock’s price, eating into any profit for the short-sellers.

As it relates to GameStop, however, there is a lot more happening. Specifically, internet chatter from a Reddit community called r/WallStreetBets intentionally tried to push the stock price higher, which fueled more interest, which pushed the price higher, which fueled more speculative buying, which pushed the price higher – you can see where this is going.

The result:

• GameStop was up over 2,000% from January 1st through January 28th and over 10,000% in the past year through the 28th (those are not typos) and
• Short-sellers have lost over $23 billion on GameStop in January alone, according to S3 partners.

What is the End Game?

That question is one that is not easily answered. Sure there are lots of smaller investors that have made a fortune buying a few shares of GameStop. And there are some big hedge funds that are absorbing billions of dollars in losses. It really does feel like a modern-day David vs. Goliath and many outside of the investing world are suggesting that this is the next movement similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement. You might remember that the Occupy Wall Street was a protest movement against economic inequality that began in September 2011.

But while Occupy Wall Street gave rise to the slogan “We are the 99%” which highlights the income and wealth differences between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the country, the movement did not have the economic tools to truly fight back.

But that has all changed with the advances of online brokerage firms like Robinhood which advertises commission-free investing.

Interestingly, Robinhood, Schwab, TD Ameritrade (bought by Schwab but TD Ameritrade operates its brokerage firm separately), and Interactive Brokers all announced that they were restricting trading in GameStop.

What Should You Do?

While you might be disappointed that you missed a stock that went up 10,000% in a month, there are three things that investors should think about:

1. Make sure you know your reason for investing; and

2. Make sure any investment fits within your tolerance for risk; and

3. Make sure any investment fits within your investment policy statement.

Finally, appreciate that this GameStop drama might very well fundamentally alter the way Wall Street works. Because what happened/is happening to GameStop is also happening to:

• Bed, Bath & Beyond;
• AMC;
• Nokia;
• BlackBerry;
• American Airlines; and
• Blockbuster.

But let’s be clear: the above list is absolutely not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold. It’s simply a list of companies that are gaining traction within the same r/WallStreetBets community.

In other words, before you buy any stock, bond, mutual fund, ETF, closed-end fund or any other investment product, go back to those 3 suggestions from earlier.

And please talk to your financial advisor first.

Copyright © 2021 FMeX. All rights reserved. Distributed by Financial Media Exchange

This material is provided for general information and educational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice. This information contained herein is as of February 2, 2021 and derives from eMoney Advisor, a source Ballast Advisors believes to be reliable; however, the accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Nothing contained herein constitutes as an offer or recommendation to buy or sell a particular security or investment product. Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about the firm,including its services, strategies, and fees can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available without charge upon request

Concentrated Stock Positions: Considerations and Strategies

Investing and stock market concept gain and profits with faded candlestick charts.

Time counts

When dealing with a large stock holding, think about your time frame. Some strategies, such as hedging, might be most suitable in the short term or if you are restricted from selling. Others, such as donating to a trust, may be more cost effective over a longer time period, though your charitable intentions obviously play a role as well.

Close up a man working about financial with calculator at his office to calculate expenses

Make sure your collar’s not too tight

Transaction costs in multiple leg options strategies, such as a collar, can be significant and should be considered as these strategies involve multiple commissions, fees, and charges. Also, the prices set for a collar must not violate the rules against a so-called constructive sale. A strategy that eliminates all risk is effectively a sale and thus subject to capital gains taxes. The strike prices of a collar should not be too close to your stock’s market price.

Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors, and investors may lose the entire amount of invested principal in a relatively short period of time. Prior to buying or selling an option, a person must receive a copy of “Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options.” Copies of this document may be obtained from your financial professional and are also available at

Whether you inherited a large holding, exercised options to buy your company’s stock, sold a private business, hold restricted stock, or have benefitted from repeated stock splits over the years, having a large position in a single stock carries unique challenges. Even if the stock has done well, you may want more diversification, or have new financial goals that require a shift in strategy.

When a single stock dominates your portfolio, however, selling the stock may be complicated by more than just the associated tax consequences. There also may be legal constraints on your ability to sell, contractual obligations such as lock-up agreements, or practical considerations, such as the possibility that a large sale could overwhelm the market for a thinly traded stock. The choices appropriate for you are complex and will depend on your own situation and tax considerations, but here is a brief overview of some of your options.

Sell your shares

Selling obviously frees up funds that can be used to diversify a portfolio. However, if you have a low cost basis, you may be concerned about capital gains taxes. Or you may want to avoid any perception of market manipulation or insider trading. You might consider selling shares over time, which can help you manage the tax bite in any one year, yet allow you to participate in any future growth.

You’ll need to consider the tax consequences of any sale. Long-term capital gains are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0%, 15%, and 20% depending on your taxable income. By contrast, because short-term capital gains are taxed as ordinary income, the top short-term capital gains tax rate can be 37%. Higher-income taxpayers should be aware that they may be subject to an additional 3.8% Medicare unearned income tax on net investment income (unearned income includes capital gains) if their adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 (single filers) or $250,000 (married joint filers).

If you hold restricted shares, you might set up a 10b5-1 plan, which spells out a predetermined schedule for selling shares over time. Such written plans specify in advance the dates, prices and amounts of each sale, and comply with SEC Rule 144, which governs the sale of restricted stock and was designed to prevent insider trading. A 10b5-1 plan demonstrates that your selling decisions were made prior to your having any insider knowledge that could influence specific transactions. (However, terminating the plan early or selling too much too quickly could raise questions about the plan’s legitimacy.)

You might also be able to avoid some of the restrictions on how much and when you can sell by selling shares privately rather than on the public market. However, you would likely have to sell at less than the market. However, you would likely have to sell at less than the market value, and would still face capital gains taxes.

Hedge your position

You may want to try to protect yourself in the short term against the risk of a substantial drop in price. There are multiple ways to try to manage that risk by using options. However, bear in mind that the use of options is not appropriate for all investors.

Buying a protective put essentially puts a floor under the value of your shares by giving you the right to sell your shares at a predetermined price. Buying put options that can be exercised at a price below your stock’s current market value can help limit potential losses on the underlying equity while allowing you to continue to participate in any potential appreciation. However, you also would lose money on the option itself if the stock’s price remains above the put’s strike price.

Selling covered calls with a strike price above the market price can provide additional income from your holdings that could help offset potential losses if the stock’s price drops. However, the call limits the extent to which you can benefit from any price appreciation. And if the share price reaches the call’s strike price, you would have to be prepared to meet that call.

Monetize the position

If you want immediate liquidity, you might be able to use a prepaid variable forward (PVF) agreement. With a PVF, you contract to sell your shares later at a minimum specified price. You receive most of the payment for those shares — typically 80% to 90% of their value — when the agreement is signed. However, you are not obligated to turn over the shares or pay taxes on the sale until the PVF’s maturity date, which might be years in the future. When that date is reached, you must either settle the agreement by making a cash payment, or turn over the appropriate number of shares, which will vary depending on the stock’s price at that time. In the meantime, your stock is held as collateral, and you can use the upfront payment to buy other securities that can diversify your portfolio. In addition, a PVF still allows you to benefit to some extent from any price appreciation during that time, though there may be a cap on that amount.

Caution: PVF agreements are complicated, and the IRS warns that care must be taken when using them. Consult a tax professional before using this strategy.

Borrow to diversify

If you want to keep your stock but need money to build a more diversified portfolio, you could use your stock as collateral to buy other securities on margin. However, trading securities in a margin account involves risks. You can lose more funds than you deposit in the margin account. Consider speaking with a financial professional before considering this strategy.

Exchange your shares

Another possibility is to trade some of your stock for shares in an exchange fund (a private placement limited partnership that pools your shares with those contributed by other investors who also may have concentrated stock positions). After a set period, generally seven years, each of the exchange fund’s shareholders is entitled to a prorated portion of its portfolio. Taxes are postponed until you sell those shares; you pay taxes on the difference between the value of the stock you contributed and the price received for your exchange fund shares. Though it provides no liquidity, an exchange fund may help minimize taxes while providing greater diversification (though diversification alone does not guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss). Be sure to check on the costs involved with an exchange fund as well as what other securities it holds. At least 20% must be in nonpublicly traded assets or real estate, and the more overlap between your shares and those already in the fund, the less diversification you achieve.

Donate shares to a trust If you want income rather than growth from your stock, you might transfer shares to a trust. If you have highly appreciated stock, consider donating it to a charitable remainder trust (CRT). You receive a tax deduction when you make the contribution. Typically, the trust can sell the stock without paying capital gains taxes, and reinvest the proceeds to provide an income stream for you as the donor. When the trust is terminated, the charity retains the remaining assets. You can set a payout rate that meets both your financial objectives and your philanthropic goals; however, the donation is irrevocable.

Another option is a charitable lead trust (CLT), which in many ways is a mirror image of a CRT. With a typical CLT, the charity receives the income stream for a specified time; the rest goes to your beneficiaries. There are costs associated with creating and maintaining trusts. You receive no tax deduction for transferring assets unless you name yourself the trust’s owner, in which case you will pay taxes on the annual income. Other philanthropic options include donating directly to a charity or private foundation and taking a tax deduction.

Managing a concentrated stock position is a complex task that may involve investment, tax, and legal issues. Consult professionals who can help you navigate the maze.


Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.