A Nebraska college student is said to have taken his own life after his trading account showed an unusually large negative balance.
University of Nebraska student, Alexander E. Kearns, 20, took up stock investing during quarantine, amid the coronavirus pandemic. He signed up and used the mobile app for Robinhood, a brokerage firm that offers trading commission-free.
Shortly before his death on June 12, Kearns’ account on Robinhood had reached a negative balance of $730,165. It apparently upset Kearns, who left a note that said he had “no clue” what he was doing. The balance, however, may have been a temporary glitch, according to Forbes, “while his assigned options actually settled to his account.”
“It’s actually a user interface issue and when Alex opened his app, he saw his cash balance was [negative] $730,000 and when you look at the screenshot, he had $16,000 in his account which was his true saving,” family member Bill Brewster told WGN 9.
— Bill Brewster (@BillBrewsterSCG) June 16, 2020
In a final note left for his family, Kearns reportedly claimed that the never authorized marginal trading. He added that he was given a million-dollar leverage without any of his own income.
“How was a 20 year old with no income able to get assigned almost a million dollar’s worth of leverage? Painful lesson. F**k Robinhood.”
To the media – This is paragraph 1 of the suicide note. It’s part of the public domain. Quote away.
If you’d like verification, the family will provide that. pic.twitter.com/Q9Kb2hgccn
— Bill Brewster (@BillBrewsterSCG) June 17, 2020
Kearns’ parents found the note on his desk on June 12. Earlier that day, a train hit and killed him. Authorities found the college student deceased at 111th street, close to the intersection of Cedar Road in Naperville. According to WGN 9, Kearns purposely threw himself in front of the train.
According to Forbes, Kearns could have been doing a “bull put spread,” although Robinhood has not released the exact details of his account. Kearns wrote in the note that he “should have cancelled out” after he bought and sold the stock.
“They try to gamify trading and couch it as investment,” Brewster added.
Brewster shared additional details about Kearns’ death on his Twitter account. He’s hoping that by spreading awareness, Robinhood will make changes to its interface so that other tragedies can be avoided.
“Don’t do something stupid like hide behind some corporate attorney that claims that would be an admission of guilt,” Brewster wrote. “If this happens again and you didn’t fix the issue you’re going to have a much bigger problem on your hands.”
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[Feature Photo: Alexander Kearns/Beidelman-Kunsch Funeral Home]