WallStreetBets and financialised capitalism

by John Quiggin on February 3, 2021

It’s been hard to miss the chaos that’s arisen from a bunch of Reddit users (on sub-reddit WallStreetBets) getting together to squeeze shortsellers on stocks including GameStop and AMC Theatres. Most of the attention has been confined to the stockmarket action, but I was struck by this piece in The Bulwark[1], making the point that the process has enabled AMC to issue high-priced shares, repay debt and thereby stave off impending bankruptcy.

I don’t have a view on whether AMC should go bankrupt or not, but this is the kind of decision about capital allocation that is driven, in large measure by stockmarkets. The efficient markets hypothesis says that stockmarkets do the best possible job of estimating the value of assets, and thereby guides the allocation of capital. In the absence of the WallStreetBets push, it appeared that the market judgement was that it would be better to steer capital away from AMC, and into some other activity. Now, it’s the opposite.

One possible response is that WallStreetBets is an episode of craziness that will soon pass. But once you strip away newsworthy bits like the role of Reddit and the scale of the price movement, this kind of squeeze (or conversely, short-selling raid) is available, and potentially profitable, to any group of traders who can mobilize the necessary few billion (using options, those billions can be magnified a fair way). That’s part of the reason why stock prices are far more volatile than would seem justified by the arrival of new information relative to future earnings.

If stock prices are more volatile than underlying value, the two must differ most of the time. That undermines the claim that financial markets do a better job of allocating investment capital than would, for example, a central planning board. Even if you don’t want to go that far, there’s no obvious reason why limiting stock trading to (say) once a week would impair the allocation of capital to an extent that would outweigh the savings from cutting the financial down to a small fraction of its present size.

fn1. A Never-Trump website, well worth a look.

{ 34 comments }

1

Tm 02.03.21 at 9:12 am

“limiting stock trading to (say) once a week”

Why not charge a fee on financial transactions that makes high frequency trading unprofitable. It’s an old idea, of course.

The AMC case is unusual in that driving the stock price up has materially benefited the company because it could sell some shares at higher prices. Under most circumstances, the stock price is totally irrelevant to the operations of the company and relevant only to shareholders and traders. All the more bizarre is the widespread notion that the performance of corporate managers should be measured in terms of the market performance.

2

Salem 02.03.21 at 10:30 am

But the “underlying value” of a firm is unknown and contentious. We would expect any good estimator to be more volatile than the underlying value, for well-known reasons. By way of analogy, the goals scored per game by a football team is more volatile than their “underlying attacking skill,” but it’s still a great measure. And you would get a worse measure, not a better one, if you limited the team to playing infrequently. You can’t just say volatility. You have to explain why this amount of volatility is a problem, how the volatility trades off against accuracy, and why some other measure will be better.

Consider how a central planning board would operate. It might have a given policy for a certain period of time, investing X in industry A, then new members come onto the board with a new view, or take a minority view into the majority. Now they invest 2X in industry A. Did the underlying situation change when the new members came onto the board? No. But they had a different perspective on the existing situation. There is a constant, and inevitable, battle of perspectives/models/assumptions, and a feedback process between our way of thinking and the results of the system. You don’t escape that when you go to a planning board or try to restrict capital markets, you just make it harder for interested parties to get new information and get a better perspective.

3

nastywoman 02.03.21 at 11:52 am

@
Under most circumstances, the stock price is totally irrelevant to the operations of the company and relevant only to shareholders and traders –

BUT that has very much changed with the Stock Market being such an obvious ”GamblingStop” – that even Musk went ”Gamestonk” –
and a Robinhood Investor myself I’m very well aware that -(if I find enough followers)
I even can influence the operation of the OatMilkStartUp of Prince Harry and Meghan
at least as long as Interest Rates don’t rise again – and my Anti-Gambling-Senses don’t make me leave ”the Casino”.

4

Tim Worstall 02.03.21 at 11:58 am

“If stock prices are more volatile than underlying value, the two must differ most of the time. That undermines the claim that financial markets do a better job of allocating investment capital than would, for example, a central planning board.”

That doesn’t seem entirely justified. For the initial claim is:

“The efficient markets hypothesis says that stockmarkets do the best possible job of estimating the value of assets, and thereby guides the allocation of capital.”

Depends perhaps on the value being ascribed to “undermines”. But that central planning is better than markets depends upon showing that central planning is better than markets. Given things like ethanol mandates, HS2 and so on, the pro-central planning argument has a lot of work to do. Politics doesn’t trend toward efficiency perhaps?

5

Matt 02.03.21 at 12:43 pm

If stock prices are more volatile than underlying value, the two must differ most of the time. That undermines the claim that financial markets do a better job of allocating investment capital than would, for example, a central planning board.

This is obviously false, right? I mean, not that it might not be true that a central planing board might not do better, but that this is strong evidence for it. We’d need some positive evidence that the central planing board would do better, and the above provide no evidence for that at all. Do we have any evidence that a central planing board would do better? We have a lot of experience with central planing boards doing pretty bad jobs of allocating capital, but of course that doesn’t mean that they might not do better jobs. Do we have any evidence for that? And for the claim that they might regularly do better than financial markets (as imperfect as those obviously are)? Mostly, though, I want to insist that the evidential claim made here is just clearly not right, at least not on its own.

6

Zamfir 02.03.21 at 12:48 pm

“All the more bizarre is the widespread notion that the performance of corporate managers should be measured in terms of the market performance.”

I don’t see why this is bizarre? Shareholding is the right to tell management to run the company to your advantage. It’s “being the big boss”, just cut up into many tradeable pieces.

7

Trader Joe 02.03.21 at 1:21 pm

As with most things financial, the answer is still as simple as supply and demand.

AMC was able to obtain additional funding as a result of the short term bubble in the shares because there were investors willing to supply it. Some likely wanted shares to cover shorts with, others saw a long-term opportunity, some saw a trading opportunity – whatever the case investors in the offering saw an opportunity presented to make money or protect a downside.

By contrast, Gamestop had no such opportunity. As much as they might have liked to raise money at $200, $300 or $400/share there were no institutional investors willing to provide it and certainly retail investors couldn’t be corralled efficiently enough to do it in any meaningful sum.

As Tm noted above, 99 days out of 100 the market provides a reasonable price signal that investors can readily use to value a company within a relevant range. It should be obvious that there is no “one price” that accurately values a company. At best there is a range of potential fair values and the distribution around that range will be defined by the variability of the assumptions underlying the valuation.

Companies with a broken business model (Gamestop) or verging on bankruptcy (AMC) will logically have a much more extreme range of outcomes just as small cap companies, technology, bio-pharma etc. will also have relative to more mature comparable businesses. This variability is embraced with efficient markets and the volatility of related valuations is a normal construct which I believe undermines your premise.

Equally, a short-term investor will have a different set of discounting and valuation assumptions than a long-term one, than an employee with options or a founding shareholder…that’s why we keep the market open every day, so that all of these different interests can get liquidity any time they want at a price they deem a fair clearing price.

Note also the role of index funds. These vehicles are entirely price/value agnostic and now make up more than 50% of total shareholdings. They quite simply buy because the price is up and sell because the price is down and exacerbate broader market volatility that can be driven by macro, political of social events that are fully independent of price discovery on any individual company.

8

Andrew 02.03.21 at 1:55 pm

The notion that the stock market is about capital allocation is incorrect. Money isn’t going into companies through stock market IPOs, it’s mostly going out of companies through buybacks according to Doug Henwood in Jacobin:

What’s funny about these comments, aside from their earnestness in the midst of low comedy, is that the stock market has almost nothing to do with raising money for productive investment. Almost all the stock that trades on the market, including GameStock, was issued years ago, meaning that companies don’t see a dime of the daily action. Firms do issue stock now and then, in so-called initial public offerings (IPOs), but over the last twenty years, according to finance professor Jay Ritter’s data, IPOs have raised a cumulative total of $657 billion, well under 2 percent of total business investment in things like buildings and equipment over the same period. In the real world, as opposed to Barro’s imagination, firms raise almost all their investment funds internally, through profits. Rather than raising money from shareholders, businesses shovel out vast buckets of money to them. Since 2000, the five hundred large companies that make up the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index have spent $8.3 trillion buying their own stock to boost its price — over half their profits over the period, and equal to almost 20 percent of business investment over the two decades. Stock buybacks not only make the shareholders happy, but they also fatten CEOs’ paychecks, since bosses these days are paid mainly in stock.

9

Brett 02.03.21 at 3:22 pm

If stock prices are more volatile than underlying value, the two must differ most of the time.

I don’t think that follows, at least not over the longer term. The argument of EMH and (in general) index-fund investing is that these will average out over time, like how an individual gambler might strike big but the House wins in the end. And that seems to be what’s happening with GameStop – the stock value is sinking back down again quickly, only about a week after the craziness starts (which I might add didn’t really have much of an effect on the overall stock market even if it made for huge losses for a few hedge funds).

That undermines the claim that financial markets do a better job of allocating investment capital than would, for example, a central planning board.

It’s not clear that a central planning board would know any better about what the “true value” of something was. And unlike the financial markets, they don’t have a reliable means or motivation to find it – their considerations would be much more political.

10

Brett 02.03.21 at 9:46 pm

@8 Andrew

That’s only partially true. Money does go heavily into new companies through equity financing, especially in sectors where there’s real risk and a lot of investment capital is needed to scale (such as tech). That’s basically the foundation of the venture capital business.

All that said, Henwood’s not wrong that stock that’s already out there isn’t bringing in any new money for firms. But it does have the useful purpose of allowing firms to gradually change ownership based off of the appetite for risk – IE “mature” firms can shift to owners who want more stable returns rather than the early investors who want more risk, and they can do that without having to find a buyer for the whole company at the same time.

11

Kenny Easwaran 02.03.21 at 10:35 pm

One thing I was thinking about with both this event, and the general rise of the stock markets over the last year, is that there are certain non-fundamental considerations that might affect the price level of stocks. When middle class people keep most of their income and get a government giveaway as well, and lose many of the opportunities they used to have to spend money, they put a lot of it into stocks, raising their prices. I’m not sure if I should expect that this means a general stock market decline as people get vaccinated.

If these sorts of background conditions aren’t changing, then it may well be that the movement of a stock does a decent job tracking the fundamentals for the company. But when the background conditions are changing, this signal can be lost in the noise.

This struck me as similar to a phenomenon I’ve been observing much of the year with covid case counts. If testing remains at a relatively constant level, and done in relatively constant conditions, then changes in case counts in a location can indicate changes in the underlying level of infections (and the slope of this line on a logarithmic chart can give you an estimate of the current reproductive number R for the virus in that location). But when testing is changing suddenly, as in March/April last year, and around the holidays in November/December/January, these changes in case counts don’t give us a good guide to the changes in infection level, and thus don’t tell us about R. If there is a period where there is a slow, sustained increase in testing, it might look like case counts are rising. The only way we would tell this apart from a slightly positive R is that the latter would result in exponential growth, while increased testing at R=1.00 would result in linear growth in case numbers.

12

Peter T 02.03.21 at 10:53 pm

Brett’s point is pertinent. While a ‘central planning board’ may be an extreme solution, capital is actually allocated by a smallish number of local planning boards. We call these multinational companies and governments. If one is looking to improve on actual practice, the stock market is largely irrelevant.

13

MisterMr 02.04.21 at 12:18 am

Financial markets in my understanding work because some people who are already willing to buy capital stuff (as opposed to consumption goods) try to buy what they believe is the best capital stuff.
This might be more or less efficient, but doesn’t solve in any way the question of how much money should go into capital stuff vs into consumption goods.

If, as I believe, capitalist economies have a tendence to oversaving (that is the flip side of underconsumption) we will see an excess financial investiment while effective demand for consumption good is too low to justify investiment in more real capital goods (that would lead to an increase of real output) and therefore the excess savings will go into inflating bubbles and generally into speculative, not productive, behaviour.

So I believe that the bubbly stock market is a consequence, not a cause, of a low wage share (that drives inequality and thus desired savings up).

14

Tm 02.04.21 at 7:59 am

TJ 7: “As Tm noted above, 99 days out of 100”

This must be a mixup?

15

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.04.21 at 9:15 am

“So I believe that the bubbly stock market is a consequence, not a cause, of a low wage share (that drives inequality and thus desired savings up).”

Yes, but also consider the huge, unprecedented monetary stimulus over the last decade (in 2008-2014, and then again, starting 2020). And (especially the latest one) not just in the US, but world-wide. All that dough has to go somewhere. Some consumption hopefully, but also real estate, and, yes, the stock market.

16

Zamfir 02.04.21 at 9:18 am

@Andrew, Henwood overstates the difference between internal and external investment, I think.

He says, correctly, that businesses fund most of their investments from retained profits, or from issuing debt. But that is not separate from the stock market.

After all, shareholders can order the firm to retain those profits, but pay them out to the shareholder. They can order the firm to issue more debt and pay out the money directly to shareholders. These things happen all the time.

When those are not happening, the shareholders are investing in the company. They could take more cash from the company and do something else with it, but instead they choose to keep it inside the company.

Henwood’s numbers show that the stock market is full of mature companies that have a net outflow of cash to shareholders. That is hardly surprising – the alternative would be weirder, a market where shareholders only ever put more money into companies.

So most investment decisions are taken relative to a net outflow. If a company has attractive investment opportunities, the outflow is reduced. If it doesn’t , the outflow is increased. Net inflow from shareholders is an outlier, not the expected behaviour for the majority of companies.

17

Tim Worstall 02.04.21 at 12:05 pm

“The notion that the stock market is about capital allocation is incorrect. Money isn’t going into companies through stock market IPOs, it’s mostly going out of companies through buybacks according to Doug Henwood in Jacobin”

That’s less of a gotcha than one might think. Take it as being true, the stock market – the registered exchanges – are where early investors get to sell stuff.

OK.

Now model a world in which early investors, those providing the actual capital to go do real and actual stuff, can’t, ever, sell. There simply is no secondary market. You make an investment, great, you get the income stream from it but you can’t ever actually cash out.

That’s going to increase the price desired for those new investments, isn’t it? Raise the price of capital for those investments in actually doing things?

The existence of the stock market, of a place where people can go sell their primarty investments, lowers the cost of capital. Seems like a useful function.

18

hix 02.04.21 at 2:00 pm

Putting market efficiency aside for a moment: Winning the first time when you gamble is not good. The combination of covid and robinhood style platforms produces masses of gambling addicts.

19

Andrew 02.05.21 at 12:04 am

Tim, Zamfir:

The initial claim in the piece is that capital allocation is driven by the stock market. I think this seems clearly untrue. Most of the capital that flows to stock comes from venture capitalists, and through internal financing or borrowing. It’s not as if the market is really doing any capital allocation to businesses, even if they may react to internal capital decisions made by a company. The case of AMC raising new capital thanks to the crazy trading activity is an exceedingly rare event.

The market itself is largely a casino for rich people. It seems difficult to argue that it’s really much more than that and that some terrible thing would happen to business were it not to exist, though it might make a dent in the pay packages of executives.

20

MisterMr 02.05.21 at 12:18 am

@Gorgonzola Petrovna 15

Yes, but the stimulus is also a consequence of underconsumption: in pratice we are in a situation where the economy only runs because either the government runs deficits or the stock market is bubbly (which causes banks to pump more money in the system). If the government stops printing or the fed or local equivalent stops printing a recession plus financial crisis ensues, and obviously no government wants it, so the governments are forced to deficit spend and keep the interest rate low.

A counterexample: here in Italy the government can’t deficit spend because we are constrained by the EU, and we have horribly bad unemployment and an economy that is basically in permadepression since 20-30 years.

21

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.05.21 at 10:03 am

@MisterMr 20
Yes, sure, but ‘government spending’ and ‘monetary stimulus’ are not the same thing. Moreover, as I understand, ‘quantitative easing’, the tool they’ve been using recently, is not even a typical component of a monetary stimulus (until recently). It’s a very specific kind of stimulus. Interest rates go down to zero, conservative investing (bonds of all kinds, money market accounts) becomes pointless, and – natural consequence – money flows into the stock market.

Why they have to resort to using this tool, it’s a separate question.

22

nastywoman 02.05.21 at 11:16 am

”The case of AMC raising new capital thanks to the crazy trading activity is an exceedingly rare event”.

But isn’t/wasn’t one of the major plays of ”the market”(Casino) to raise all of this dough in order that corporations can buy their stocks back in order to raise the value of their stocks and thusly the value of their companies and thusly make Bezos and Musk RICHER than GOD?

23

Zamfir 02.05.21 at 12:38 pm

Andrew, I think that view really underestimates the importance of stock markets.

For one, you may be right that the stock markets most reacts to internal decisions. But shareholders have the option of active involvement. That option has great effect on company policy, even when it is not taken. Most companies aim to avoid active shareholder involvement, by anticipating what shareholder want and then doing it pro-actively.

By analogy, think of a fence. It only reacts to my touch, and in practice I never touch it. But it still determines where I can and cannot go. Sometimes you see publically-owned companies run into the fence. Big shareholders start voicing their disagreement. Small shareholders sell. Activist shareholder buy in. The board has to change course, or they get replaced. The firm may be taken private, or taken over by a competitor. The fact that these things can happen, also guides companies when they are not happening

Second, taking money out of companies is just as much capital allocation as putting money in. After all, the primary reason of shareholding is to take money out of the company. The question is mostly, do the shareholders take money out today, or in the future when there might be more money. Putting money into a company is just an extreme version of the latter choice, it is not a different kind of choice.

Shareholders generally take much less money out of companies then they legally could. They allow companies to retain profits, and they allow companies to take out loans for investment purposes. Those are definitely decisions, even if they are mostly passive decisions to let management continue.

24

Reason 02.05.21 at 1:24 pm

MisterMr @13
Are you in Germany? Because if not this statement “If, as I believe, capitalist economies have a tendence to oversaving ” is simply wierd, given that I spent the early 2000s reading constantly about America’s twin deficits and dwindling savings rate. Particularly given that at the time the nominally socialist China was the counterpart doing the massive saving.

I’m inclined actually to believe this thing about over-consuming and under-saving is a red herring because it suffers a bit (ok a lot) from the common money illusion – are we talking here about the real economy or the nominal economy and WHO exactly are we talking about. As I see it, nominal savings are not in any sense a key variable. Investment is. And you can’t actually consume unless you invest (or someone else does and you borrow from them).

25

Tim Worstall 02.05.21 at 5:45 pm

“It’s not as if the market is really doing any capital allocation to businesses,”

I think a reasonable case could be made that VC and private investment in EV builders is at least partially driven by the Tesla share price. What you might be able to sell it for in the future being a useful part of evaluating an investment now.

26

Omega Centauri 02.05.21 at 9:44 pm

While changing stock prices don’t directly affect day to day operations of corps, they do have a substantial effect on their operations over a somewhat longer timeframe. If market capitalization goes up the ability of the company to borrow increases. It also makes it more expensive for another company to take them over. Stock is also used as a form of remuneration and incentive beyond the executive suite. And companies usually have some leeway in the total number of shares outstanding, to the extent they are below they can print/sell more. Printing and selling more doesn’t necessarily hurt current shareholders, as the monetary value from the stocksale is part of the overall asset “owned” by the shareholders. So shareprice affects the ability to raise capital through both equity and debt markets. It also affects the reputation with stakeholders and with those who may be contemplating doing some sort of deal with the corp (such as a business deal, or to take a job, or buy a product whose value depends on part on the health of the provider.)

27

J-D 02.06.21 at 6:49 am

There is an important difference between ‘The stockmarket should be abolished’ and ‘The stockmarket should be more tightly restricted in ways which directly or indirectly slow down trading and make the market less volatile than it currently is’.

28

MisterMr 02.06.21 at 9:30 am

@Gorgonzola Petrovna 21

Quantitative easing is the Fed (or local equivalent) printing money and buying either government bonds or other stock. Since the central bank is part of the government and since it is printing money I count it as stimulus, but it is a kind of stimulus that gives the money to the rich guys, so it’s less effective and produces bubbles instead of inflation. It is the same problem of stimulus by cutting taxes vs stimulus by increasing direct government spending.

@Reason 24

I live in Italy. I think you don’t understand the problem:
People produce and consume “stuff” but save “money”. If people are trying to save, the total quantity of money has to go up, otherwise the economy will hit the so called paradox of thrift and a recession will ensue. The quantity of money can increase only in 3 ways:

1) banks lend more; this is endogenous money that is automatically created by the private economy during booms, but this is pro-cyclical, so the governments will be forced to lower the interest rate during busts to entice banks in lending more, and in pratice cannot afford to raise the interest rate significantly during booms.

2) governments actually print the money, which implies that the government is operating ad deficit (more money goes out than comes in through taxes)

3) governments operating at deficits by increasing public debt and bonds, that is not very different from (2) as long as the government can potentially print.

In other words, when there is an increase in monetary savings on one side, there has to be an increase of debt on the other, since savings are credit, whose counterpart is debt.
So when there is an oversaving/undetconsumption situation, to avoid recessions, the government is forced to either go into debt or push privates to go into debt. This increases consumption, staves out the recession, but naturally also pushes the country into being a net importer.

That said, China is currently in pratical terms a capitalist country run by a communist party (I mean, the UK has a NHS, China doesn’t, the UK is more a socialist country than China), and has different problems than USA: it is still comparatively underindustrialized, where the USA is not. So the Chinese government has a reason to squeeze consumption at home, because being a net exporter means importing technology. But it doesn’t mean China has no economic problems, it means that those problems are less visible in front to a tachnological growth that increases productivity big time, but this fast technological growth is only possible for countries that are still technological backwaters.

Anyway, my main point is that the increase in debt levels and the so called twin deficits are also a consequence of a situation of underconsumption, and not at all a counterargument but actually the best proof of it;

29

hix 02.06.21 at 6:49 pm

Wondering now if the wallstreetsbets people did win in the first place on agregate. Anecdotally quite a few were leveraged like mad and missed the part about getting out once you made the successful shortsqueeze.

30

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.06.21 at 11:07 pm

@28, I was saying the same thing: quantitative easing is directly responsible for the stock market bubble.

Now, the central bank in the US (I don’t know about Italy or EU central bank) is not exactly part of the government; it’s not controlled by either of the three branches. If the Fed decides to buy bonds, the Fed does it. As for any meaningful stimulus, a massive infrastructure development for example, it would have to be approved by the congress. And that’s not nearly as easy as half dozen Fed governors taking a vote.

Military spending is an exception; that’s an easy (‘bipartisan’) decision. But that’s already extremely high. And everything else, no. Recall, for example, the struggle for/against the border wall in the last 4 years.

So, structural problems. Presumably, China has none of those. If today Xi decides to build another great wall, the project starts tomorrow.

31

AnthonyB 02.07.21 at 4:07 am

Trading more than once a week isn’t anyone’s definition of high-frequency trading. To high-frequency traders, a second is a long time. I’m used to calling a trade held for a few days or a week a short-term position trade (in the futures markets).

32

MisterMr 02.07.21 at 2:19 pm

@Gorgonzola Petrovna 28

“Now, the central bank in the US (I don’t know about Italy or EU central bank) is not exactly part of the government; it’s not controlled by either of the three branches.”

This just means that the central bank is a fourth branch of the government, but IMHO it is still part of the government.

The main point is this: in a capitalist economy, banks generally have a procyclical behaviour: they lend more during booms and try to rein in credit during busts, thus exacerbating the business cycle. Central banks generally try to act in the opposite way, countercyclically, ideally lowering the interest rate during busts and raising it during booms, hence they follow the same logic that keynesian stimulus is supposed to follow.

This happens because the central bank is part of the government and therefore can afford to (A) print money and (B) ignore profits, so that it can act in a non profitable way and go against the business cycle (this is the main difference with private banks).

But in reality what happened is that time and time again the FED had to lower more the interest rate that it could rise it again during booms, thus ultimately reaching the “zero lower bound”.
(I will note in passing that the zero lower bound is the natural situation for a capitalist system, because central banks can only push up the interest rate not down; central banks were created to limit lending by private banks, originally banknotes were emitted by privates, hence the name bank-notes).

So in the end what happens is that the central bank is just reacting to a condition caused by private markets, not causing it (it could avoid to do monetary easing, but this would lead to a chain bankruptcy crisis and likely a deflationary recession, so in the real world it doesn’t really really have a choice).

33

Sebastian H 02.07.21 at 7:23 pm

I think liquidity provides a societal good. I think frequency of trading adds to liquidity. Even still I think that HFT has to have huge diminishing returns (in terms of the societal good). Once a year to once a month probably big societal returns. Once a month to once a day, also. Even once a day to once a minute, and maybe even once a second. But 1,000 time a second? I doubt that is much better than once a second in terms of the good.

34

Tm 02.08.21 at 3:33 pm

his 29: we probably have no way of knowing but it seems pretty obvious that most of the small players must have ended up on the losing side.

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