If you thought that an ETF made up of the most boisterous stocks, as determined by social media conversations, seemed like the natural conclusion to the Reddit-fueled roller coaster of late January in the stock market, you were right.
On Thursday, asset manager VanEck will launch the VanEck vectors Social Sentiment ETF, which offers exposure to stocks with “the most optimistic investor sentiment and perception.” Yet on Tuesday, VanEck’s plans to roll out the fund in the standard orderly manner fell victim to the curse of 2021.
Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports and the self-proclaimed king of the retail boom, tweeted an elaborately produced video of an “emergency press conference” to introduce the ETF.
Portnoy is a shareholder in the company that created the index underlying the fund, a VanEck spokesperson confirmed, although the company did not respond to a query on whether or not it had a role at the organized press conference.
More specifically, the stunt was also an uncomfortable reminder that one man’s metameme may be another’s market manipulator.
“This is fuzzier than anything else I can think of in terms of who Portnoy is and how what will drive the components of the index will be affected by the stocks he talks about on social media,” said Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF and mutual. -research fund for CFRA. “To be clear, I understand that companies are going to enter the index based on a variety of factors.”
“The product is kind of awesome,” said Tyler Gellasch, CEO of Healthy Markets. Gellasch believes the ETF “appears to be capitalizing on what the SEC and FINRA could very well determine as market manipulation,” he said in an interview.
“People who can have direct influence on the value of individual securities are involved in the product offering. Think of all the potential conflicts of interest and personal dealings you might have, things like potential candidates. Your own Twitter feeds, your own public statements could change the value of the underlying securities and affect the underlying portfolio. “
VanEck also did not immediately respond to those concerns.
Related: Are ETFs Safe … For Retail Investors?
Speaking to MarketWatch on the same day that Gary Gensler, elected by Chairman Joe Biden to Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, answered questions from the Senate Banking Committee, including many about GameStop GME,
commercial saga, Gellasch noted that many in the regulatory community had indicated that such activities “warranted scrutiny.”
As for the merits of the new ETF, “There is an investment case around using confidence to select stocks,” Rosenbluth said. “I think the ETF will attract attention not just because of the Portnoy name, but because for everyone who sat on the sidelines and watched the GameStop craze, this is a safer way to participate in that. It will diversify, including some stocks that are undervalued that could reverse and some that have critical business cases. “
The fund’s holdings are primarily large-cap growth companies such as Twitter Inc., TWTR,
Facebook Inc. FB,
and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN,
There are also many brands of the moment loved by retailers, such as Draftkings Inc. DKNG,
and Penn National Gaming PENN,
a co-owner of Barstool Sports that Portnoy is known to buy.
But there are also a lot of old economy blue chips, like Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM,
and BlackRock Inc. BLK,
Perhaps ironically, the fund is expected to rebalance once a month, which is frequent compared to most ETFs, Rosenbluth noted, but perhaps too infrequently to capture massive moves in popular stocks.
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” he asked rhetorically.
“It doesn’t help investors, companies, or really anyone in the capital markets if we keep seeing that company stock prices are completely disconnected from their fundamental values,” Gellasch said. “Our capital markets exist to channel investors’ money into good companies that do good and grow our economy. When stock prices are unrelated to that fundamental purpose, everything breaks. These things seem fun, like lottery-style gambling, but there are real businesses, jobs, and retirement savings at the other end.
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