Robinhood made a loss of $1.4bn (£1bn) in the first three months of this year amid the GameStop chaos, the stock trading app revealed as it applies to go public.
A massive buying frenzy driven by retail investors on Reddit forced Robinhood to raise emergency funds that cost it $1.5bn and tanked its finances for that quarter, according to paperwork filed with US regulators on Thursday.
Despite the recent loss, Robinhood made a $7.5m profit on revenues of $959m in 2020, compared to a loss of $107m on revenues of $278m the previous year. The number of customers with bank accounts linked to the app swelled from 7.2m in March 2020 to 18m at the end of March 2021, with total customer assets booming from $19.2bn to $81bn.
The Silicon Valley-based startup now plans to list on New York’s Nasdaq in one of this year’s most hotly anticipated floats, raising $100m and reportedly targeting a valuation of at least $40bn.
Between 20pc and 35pc of shares sold in the float will be reserved for customers.
The filing describes a mission to "democratise finance for all", hitting back at pundits and traders who accused some of its users as being irrational and cult-like.
Robinhood said: "We’re proud to serve this next generation of investors, and it’s painful to see them continually lambasted in the news reports.
"Anecdotes of people winning (and losing) large amounts of money garner more attention than the more pedestrian truths – the majority of our customers prefer to buy and hold."
App on a mission | Robinhood’s bid to democratise investing
The company also, however, pointed to a flotilla of lawsuits, investigations and penalties targeting not just its role in January’s market turmoil but also its past outages, money laundering controls, security standards, and accusations of using video-game-like tactics to "entice inexperienced customers into risky trading".
The filing disclosed 50 class action lawsuits related to trading restrictions imposed by Robinhood in January, 16 lawsuits relating to outages in March, investigations by multiple US states and federal agencies, and a government search of its chief executive Vlad Tenev’s mobile phone.
"We have been subject to regulatory investigations, actions and settlements and we expect to continue to be subject to such proceedings in the future," Robinhood said in its disclosure of risks. "We are involved in numerous litigation matters that are expensive and time-consuming."
Robinhood caused outrage on Wall Street and main street alike in January when it was forced to block users from buying shares in GameStop, a US physical retail chain similar to the UK’s Game or Electronics Boutique, Nokia, BlackBerry and the US cinema chain AMC.
Members of the WallStreetBets community on Reddit, with associated gatherings on Telegram and Discord, piled into those stocks as part of a campaign to sabotage short-sellers and Wall Street sharks in general.
After the trading ban, US legislators interrogated Mr Tenev over Robinhood’s links to Wall Street firms and the hedge funds they work with. Mr Tenev denied that the ban had been motivated in any way by protecting special interests or of having received any pressure from them to impose it.