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Young trader dies by suicide after thinking he racked up big losses on Robinhood

On the small yellow sticky be aware that 20-year-old Alex Kearns left on his bed room door was an ominous message saying to activate the pc.


Daniel Kearns powered up his son’s laptop computer of their residence in Naperville, Ilinois. Inside seconds, a four-paragraph letter flashed on the display screen. “For those who’re studying this, then I’m lifeless,” the be aware began. 

It was lower than 24 hours after Alex had checked his account on the wildly in style buying and selling app, Robinhood. In his be aware, he mentioned he thought he had rapidly racked up a adverse $730,165 money stability. However Alex could have misunderstood the Robinhood monetary assertion, in accordance with a relative.

“He thought he was uncovered, he thought that ending his life would shield his household from the publicity,” Invoice Brewster, a cousin by marriage and an analyst at Sullimar Capital, instructed CNBC in a telephone interview. “He bought on his bike and by no means got here residence.”

Alex’s physique was discovered on Friday, Plainfield Illinois Hearth Division Chief, Jon Stratton, instructed CNBC. Alex, a sophomore at College of Nebraska at Lincoln, was learning administration and had a rising curiosity in monetary markets, in accordance with his household.

The free-trading app he was utilizing has turn into a well-liked entry level to the inventory marketplace for first-time traders. It has grown from 1 million customers in 2016, to 10 million at first of this 12 months, with a loyal following on social media. On one Reddit discussion board, Wall Avenue Bets, merchants typically joke about main losses on Robinhood and publish screenshots of their good points. 

Suicide is the results of a number of contributing components, and never the results of a single occasion. Nonetheless, the tragedy is a reminder of dangers, and potential for giant losses, that may include sophisticated buying and selling devices equivalent to choices. Over the weekend, Brewster took to social media to search out solutions and within the course of warned others in regards to the pitfalls of day buying and selling.

“That is investing, this is not a sport. It is individuals’s lives,” Brewster mentioned.

Within the be aware to his household seen by CNBC, Alex accused Robinhood of permitting him to pile on an excessive amount of threat. He claimed the places he purchased, and the shares bought “ought to have cancelled out” however in hindsight, he mentioned he had “no clue” what he was doing. 

“How was a 20 12 months outdated with no revenue in a position to get assigned nearly 1,000,000 dollars price of leverage?” the be aware reads. “There was no intention to be assigned this a lot and take this a lot threat, and I solely thought that I used to be risking the cash that I really owed.”

In an announcement to CNBC, a spokesperson for Robinhood mentioned they “are deeply saddened to listen to this horrible information and we reached out to share our condolences with the household.” The spokesperson confirmed that Kearns did have an account with the brokerage start-up however wouldn’t present any further particulars.

Robinhood can be reviewing its choices providing “to find out if any modifications could also be acceptable,” in accordance with the spokesperson.

Alex Kearns

Source: Invoice Brewster, Kearns household

An choices contract offers a dealer the proper — however not the duty — to purchase or promote an asset at a selected worth, on or earlier than a sure date. Merchants use it to hedge threat, or speculate. 

Robinhood is required by its regulator, FINRA, to approve every particular person consumer that wishes to commerce choices. The identical is required of any regulated brokerage agency. Within the case of Robinhood, merchants fill out a questionnaire on the app that certifies investing expertise and degree of sophistication of the dealer, in addition to an acknowledgement of the chance. Robinhood doesn’t help uncovered choice promoting.

Brewster mentioned Alex could have misinterpreted the state of his Robinhood account. CNBC has not seen particulars of Kearn’s buying and selling account and couldn’t independently affirm the extent of the losses.

A screenshot shared by Brewster reveals adverse money and shopping for energy:

However adverse shopping for energy and adverse money are usually not the identical as regular debt. The $730,000 quantity may have been reflecting the opposite facet of an choices commerce not settled but and the worth of shares tied to these choices. 

A corresponding commerce to cowl a purchase order is commonly not executed till the next buying and selling day, which Robinhood tells its customers by way of e mail and notifications. In that case, money and shopping for energy will come up as adverse till the opposite facet has not been processed. The momentary adverse show shouldn’t be a stability of debt and the general portfolio worth would mirror the worth of the account. 

Daniel Kearns confirmed to CNBC in an e mail that Alex did have a Robinhood account, and he started buying and selling shares earlier than this spring. He mentioned the start-up reached out via Brewster, however “he wasn’t prepared to speak to them.” The Kearns household requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials in Alex’s identify could also be made to the American Basis for Suicide Prevention. 

Brewster mentioned he is advocating for extra transparency and safeguards for brand spanking new merchants. 

“I would like them to repair the best way that they are displaying publicity — I would like them to behave like a monetary platform ought to act,” Brewster mentioned. “If you’re coping with retail cash and actively soliciting merchants underneath 30 years outdated to have errors like that is inexcusable and on the minimal negligence.”

For those who or somebody you already know is in disaster, name the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255

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