You know, when I think about the stock market, I don’t really think about Michael Bolton. But I guess Public — which refers to itself as “the investing social network” — was envious that Robinhood was getting all the press attention, so it hired Bolton to revamp his 1989 hit “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You.” The new version is a lament about payment for order flow, which was recently the subject of Reddit outrage and a point of inquiry in a House hearing.
Bolton is absolutely solemn in the beginning — almost to the point of convincing me that this is a hostage proof-of-life video. But his voice is as lovely as ever as he launches into song. It’s not the first time he’s lampooned his late-’80s / early-’90s image as a lovelorn crooner; he did something similar for Panera with “When a Man Loves a Woman.” In both instances, he got a paycheck and demonstrated that he has a sense of humor. Good for him!
The practice Bolton is lamenting is a controversial one, payment for order flow, which was recently the target of Reddit’s fury. A market maker pays to see some portion of retail investors’ trades; this could theoretically allow front-running of orders, but that’s illegal and also, separately, not very lucrative for the market maker. (Most of Reddit’s anger assumed front-running retail trades was the entire point of payment for order flow.) The payments are part of why apps such as Robinhood can offer trades for free.
And make no mistake, Public is taking aim at Robinhood. After the uproar around Robinhood during the GameStop debacle, Public announced it would no longer engage in payment for order flow. Last week, a day before Robinhood was quizzed about payment for order flow in a largely incoherent House subcommittee hearing, Public announced it had raised $220 million. The very next day, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asked Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev if he would commit to sending the proceeds from payment for order flow to his customers, a question he dodged.
To continue putting pressure on Robinhood, Public is offering to cover any fees for transferring from your previous brokerage to itself.
In a second, perkier video, Bolton says, “Hey gorgeous! You did it. Congrats on breaking up with your brokerage.” He also says that once you’re on Public, you can follow him. This is true! Here’s his portfolio. He hasn’t invested in Panera — it’s on his “Watch list” — but Amazon, Apple, Disney, Peloton, and Spotify are all part of his Public portfolio. Well, investing in Spotify is probably a better way to make money off of it than waiting for royalty payments.