When I called Citron Research’s Andrew Left on Tuesday afternoon, I thought I had the wrong number.
He’s been using a fake voice when he picks up calls these days because he says members of Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum have been calling him nonstop. They’ve set up a fake Tinder profile for the short seller, shown up at his guardhouse, and hacked Citron’s Twitter account, all over a GameStop call he made on Twitter on January 19, he told me.
“They’re harassing me however they can,” Left said. “This hasn’t happened before.”
Left has long been in the business of controversy, having published market commentary for 17 years that frequently accuses companies of fraud. And he’s been right before: according to Citron’s website, 50 companies covered by the company have been targets of regulatory intervention since 2001.
Left’s GameStop call didn’t include any fraud accusations. Instead, he said on Twitter that he believes that the stock will go to $20 and warned investors to “buy at your own risk.” Since he made that call, on January 19, GameStop’s share price has increased by more than 730 percent as of midday trading on Wednesday.
“I’m thoroughly amazed at the scope of the move,” Left said by phone. “But it is what it is. It’s the market, that’s the game that’s being played, there’s nothing else being said.”
Now, Left has become the target of claims of fraud himself. Users on the Wall Street Bets Forum have been calling on their peers to report him to the Securities and Exchange Commission since November, when he tweeted that Chinese Tesla competitor NIO’s value would fall.
More recently, a Change.org petition that was launched Tuesday calling for regulatory bodies’ investigation has garnered more than 35,000 signatures.
“I’m not going to lie,” Left said by phone Tuesday. “It’s annoying. It goes to a generation of people who just hide behind their screens and live a different life.” He added that he hasn’t looked at the WallStreetBets subreddit.
He doesn’t think the short squeeze fad will continue long term, though. “There’s no there there,” Left said. “It’s a bunch of kids deciding to all buy calls.”
[II Deep Dive: Buried in Reddit, the Seeds of Melvin Capital’s Crisis]
Left released a video Wednesday morning that was more upbeat than the conversation he had with Institutional Investor on Tuesday, however.
In it, he said that Citron Capital is “just fine,” adding that the firm has covered the majority of its short bet, at a loss. Left said Citron will be more specific and judicious with its shorts and plans to have some long positions in the future.
The irony, as Left pointed out on Wednesday, is that for years, he had challenged institutions, much like the Wall Street Bets crowd is trying to do today.
“We were the voice of the individual investor against the institutions,” Left said during the video. “I took the lawsuits, I went to court, I took the questions.”
But, he added, it never got personal.
“I never threatened a corporate executive, their family, or any shareholders,” Left said. “It was always business.”
Left signed off with a reminder to retail investors: Set aside money earned on investments for taxes.
"That's just a piece of advice from someone with experience," Left said in the video. "With that, cautious investing to all."