Celebrity-backed Public.com blocks retail traders from buying Hertz shares
One of the more interesting companies catering to young, retail traders to launch recently (and there have been quite a few) is Public.com.
Founded two years ago and co-run by well-known FX industry executive Jannick Malling and serial web entrepreneur Leif Abraham, Public.com is indeed interesting / different in that it is app-only, targeting younger traders with a social-trading bent.
And, very interesting in its roster of investors and backers which includes traditional VCs such as Accel and Greycroft but also celebrities such as actor/rapper Will Smith, NFL star JJ Watt, and popular Youtuber Casey Neistat.
Public.com co-CEO Leif Abraham published an interesting blog post last week indicating that the company – which competes with the likes of Robinhood for a new generation of traders – was putting a “safety lock” on the purchase of Hertz shares by its clients.
Hertz had become one of the heaviest-traded stocks by retail traders over the previous days, despite the fact that it had filed for bankruptcy protection at the end of May.
Hertz shares, which had dipped down to just 40 cents in the days following the filing, suddenly began to pick up steam in a sort of hot-potato bidding war among (mainly) retail traders, inexplicably trading back up to about the $6 range by early June.
That led Hertz to file a notice that it planned to sell about half a billion dollars of stock in a last-ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy – although in the filing they warned investors that they would likely lose all their money. (Probably disclosure their lawyers made them put in there, but also probably correct).
So, back to Mr. Abraham’s blog post and Public.com…. While the SEC mulled whether or not to allow Hertz to go ahead with the share sale early last week, Public.com decided to protect its community so that their members wouldn’t be “left holding the bag so that Hertz can avail this ‘unique opportunity’.”
Public.com members who already held Hertz stock were still allowed to sell their holdings at any time.
Public.com’s move to protect its investors might have cost them some clients who looked elsewhere, but their principled stance is (in our view) quite admirable. And, in hindsight, seems to have been prescient in that Hertz did indeed pull the share sale, and its shares have since retreated back down toward bankruptcy range. (Although at $1.73 a share where NYSE:HTZ closed Friday, there are still many out there betting that the company’s stock is worth a lot more than zero).
As noted, Public.com is co-run by Jannick Malling whose previous exploits include the Tradable app which became part of CFH Group that was acquired by Playtech, and a stint helping build Saxo Bank’s B2B business in his native Copenhagen. And by Leif Abraham, whose AND.CO was acquired by Fiverr and Pay-with-a-Tweet was acquired by HV.
Leif Abraham’s blog post on Hertz can be found here.