Robinhood, the widely-used cryptocurrency and stock trading platform, has reached a settlement with the Massachusetts securities regulator, marking the end of a legal dispute that dates back to December 2020.
The company has agreed to a $7.5 million penalty and is set to undertake a significant overhaul of its digital engagement practices.
This agreement comes in response to accusations that Robinhood engaged in the gamification of trading, specifically targeting inexperienced investors in the realms of crypto and stock trading.
Robinhood’s Settlement with Massachusetts
Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin announced on January 18 the conclusion of a legal battle spanning nearly three years with Robinhood. The dispute centered around allegations that Robinhood marketed its platform in a manner that resembled a game, potentially misleading novice investors.
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Under the terms of the settlement, Robinhood is required to pay a hefty fine and make significant changes to its digital engagement tactics, particularly those involving the gamification of trading.
Lucas Moskowitz, Robinhood’s Deputy General Counsel and Head of Government Affairs, addressed the settlement, noting that the issues in question were a reflection of the company’s past practices and not its current operations. He affirmed Robinhood’s commitment to providing unfettered market access to its Massachusetts customers and to moving beyond these past challenges.
Robinhood’s Stance and Actions
The initial complaint filed by Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin in 2020 charged Robinhood with employing tactics that overly simplified trading and investing, likening it to a game with potential wins, which posed a risk of misleading novice investors.
This characterization of trading sparked worries about the inherent risks and responsibilities of investing, especially for those new to the market.
In the face of these allegations, Robinhood has consistently denied claims that its app’s interface was gamified. The company has emphasized that since 2021, it has undertaken numerous measures to mitigate these concerns, focusing particularly on enhancing cybersecurity.
Part of Robinhood’s strategy to counteract the state’s allegations included initiating legal action against Galvin’s office, seeking to overturn the regulation they were accused of breaching.
Robinhood’s Commitment to Regulatory Compliance in Settlement Terms
As a key component of the settlement with Massachusetts, Robinhood has committed to discontinuing certain practices that were at the center of the dispute. The company will eliminate specific features considered problematic, such as celebratory images linked to trading activity, push notifications that promote particular stock lists, and elements that resemble gambling.
Additionally, Robinhood is required to integrate clear disclosures in its lists and collaborate with an independent compliance consultant to thoroughly review its other digital engagement strategies.
This settlement is not Robinhood’s first brush with regulatory scrutiny. In 2021, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) imposed a substantial fine of approximately $70 million on Robinhood for causing significant harm to its customers.
Moreover, in April 2023, Robinhood agreed to a $10 million settlement with securities regulators across several states, addressing allegations related to numerous system outages and deficiencies in customer service.