In early 2021, the subreddit WallStreetBets became famous for jumpstarting the meme stock craze that saw companies like GameStop balloon in value despite shrinking revenues. Now its founder, Jaime Rogozinski, is suing Reddit for kicking him out of the community just prior to its explosion in popularity over allegations he was using the online forum to try and enrich himself. It’s a fitting twist for one of the most absurd internet sagas in recent history.
“By early 2020, WallStreetBets had grown to more than 1 million subscribers, earning recognition from the financial press. This is what winning looks like,” states Rogozinski’s trademark infringement lawsuit, filed on February 15 in the Northern District Court of California, states. It goes on to allege that Reddit banned him from the platform for trying to “monetize the community” only after he filed trademark protection for the WallStreetBets brand.
WallStreetBets, whose slogan is “Like 4chan found a Bloomberg terminal,” has grown to over 10 million users since some of its users, like Keith “deepfuckingvalue” Gill, made millions off of hyping up the case for investing in dying companies like GameStop. The video game retailer’s stock went from a few bucks to over $100, some big hedge funds lost tons of money, and the subreddit leading the charge grew to be ranked 25 among all of Reddits forums.
Rogozinski was excommunicated from WallStreetBets the year before all that happened, and despite apparent movie deals is now trying to re-enter the picture through the courts. A spokesperson for Reddit called Rogozinski’s lawsuit “frivolous” in a statement to Reuters. “Jamie was removed as a moderator of r/WallStreetBets by Reddit and banned by the community moderators for attempting to enrich himself,” they said. “This lawsuit is another transparent attempt to enrich himself.”
Rogozinski sees things differently. Here’s an excerpt from Rogozinski’s lawsuit, hackneyed ‘80s film references and all:
On Reddit, just about everyone, to include aspiring pornographers and scam artists, can find a place, everyone that is except Mr. Rogozinski. Mr. Rogzinski’s true offense was trying to control the brand he created in the first place, a famous brand that helped Reddit ride to a $10 billion valuation. Reddit filed several applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to register WALLSTREETBETS as its mark, and aggressively opposed Mr. Rogozinski’s application.
“If you build it, they will come,” entrepreneurs tell themselves, drawing inspiration from the protagonist-farmer’s walk through an Iowa cornfield in the 1989 film Field of Dreams. Reddit’s dreams, however, turned out to be Mr. Rogozinski’s nightmare as the company insists, “if you build it, we will take it from you.” While other social media platforms endeavor to compensate their content creators, Reddit works to capture, take credit for, and monetize other people’s creations. Reddit says it is all-in on social justice while at the same time engaging in systematic, calculated exploitation by asserting trademark rights over brands innovators built on the platform, and then using those trademarks to secure financing. Mr. Rogozinski is just the latest victim of Reddit’s unfair and deceptive practices.
Mr. Rogozinski never asked to be treated like this.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal today, Rogozinski said he created WallStreetBets to have a place to talk about investing more like gambling, and that it grew in popularity thanks to stock brokerages marketing zero-commission trading to regular people. He claims the only monetizing he ever did was occasionally plug his book titled WallStreetBets and promote a live trading competition sponsored by True Trading Group.
Whether technically a violation of Reddit’s rules against “agreements with third parties on behalf of a subreddit” or not, it was a clear mismatch for the increasingly internet-pilled vibe of the subreddit, and it’s not looking for him to come back anytime soon. A moderator told The Wall Street Journal, “WallStreetBets has become incredibly vibrant and more intelligent since [Rogozinski] left.”