Alexander Kearns Bio – Wiki
Alexander Kearns was a Nebraska Nebraska college student, who died by suicide last week after confusion over a negative account balance on a popular investing app — which showed more than $700,000 in the red.
A sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Kearns died on June 12 at his parent’s home in Naperville, Illinois, according to his obituary and CNBC.
He was 20 years old.
Alexander Kearns Suicide
The 20-year-old was found dead less than 24 hours after checking his balance on Robinhood, an app that enables users to invest in stocks and offers “unlimited commission-free trades,” the news outlet reported.
Kearns blamed Robinhood for allowing him to accrue a negative cash balance of $730,165 when he had “no clue” — but hat might not have actually been the case, a family member told CNN.
“The kid threw himself in front of a train over nothing, because a tech company can’t figure out they shouldn’t show a negative $730,000 cash balance to a 20-year-old kid,” Bill Brewster, Kearns’ cousin-in-law, said to CNN Business.
While the company can’t disclose any details surrounding the student’s account, a spokesperson told PEOPLE Magazine they are “deeply saddened” by the news.
“All of us at Robinhood are deeply saddened to hear this terrible news and we reached out to share our condolences with the family over the weekend,” the statement read. “We will not share any details regarding the account to respect privacy and confidentiality.”
The magazine reported that Kearns had a “keen interest in markets and the economy” and began experimenting with the app during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, he began buying and selling options. Fast forward to sometime this past week and his account showed him owing $700k+. How does a 20 year old with no income get access to that kind of leverage/exposure?!
— Bill Brewster (@BillBrewsterSCG) June 13, 2020
Brewster took to Twitter to express his concern over the risks for first-time investors relating to the free-trading boom and its easy access to complicated trading instruments like options.
Kearns Last Note
A yellow sticky note instructed Kearns’ father to turn on his son’s computer, CNBC reported. The message, “If you’re reading this, then I am dead,” then flashed across the screen.
Kearns’ note recounts the 20-year-old’s desperation over his alarming account balance, according to a screenshot posted to Brewster’s Twitter. He blamed Robinhood for throwing him for a loop and allowing him to pile on too much risk, according to the note.
“How was a 20-year-old with no income able to get assigned almost a million dollar’s worth of leverage?” Kearns writes. “The puts I bought/sold should have canceled out, too, but I also have no clue what I was doing now in hindsight.”
Adding, “There was no intention to be assigned this much and take this much risk, and I only thought that I was risking the money that I actually owned. If you check the app, the margin investing option isn’t even ‘turned on’ for me. A painful lesson. F— Robinhood.”
Kearns’ body was found on Friday, Plainfield Illinois Fire Department Chief, Jon Stratton told CNBC. He was studying management and had a growing interest in financial markets, the outlet added.
Brewster, who is an analyst at Sullimar Capital, told PEOPLE Magazine that he believes the financial statement may have actually represented “his temporary balance until the stocks underlying his assigned options actually settled into his account.”
He explained that he received a wave of responses on Twitter suggesting the issue stems from the app’s confusing user interface.
— Bill Brewster (@BillBrewsterSCG) June 16, 2020
“When he saw that $730,000 number as a negative, he thought that he had blown up his entire future,” Brewster said to Forbes.
Kearns was potentially involved in a “bull put spread,” Forbes reported, which ‘involves selling put options at a higher strike price, and buying puts at a lower strike price, both with the same expiration.”
A screenshot of Kearns’ phone shows the account at a negative $730,165 cash balance displayed in red. Forbes said the number might” not have represented uncollateralized indebtedness at all,” but just a temporary statement until his assigned option underlying stocks settled.