20-Year-Old Robinhood User Kills Himself After Amassing Negative $730K Balance
Alexander E. Kearns, a 20-year-old University of Nebraska student, died by suicide on June 12, 2020. He left a note on his computer, asking, “How was a 20 year old with no income able to get assigned almost a million dollars worth of leverage?”
The leverage refers to stock investing, which Kearns began during the COVID-19 pandemic while living at home with his parents. He signed up with Robinhood, a financial services company geared towards Millennials.
Apart from trading without commission, Robinhood offers a smartphone app and gives free shares to every new customer. During the first three months of 2020, the company gained a staggering 3 million new customers, Kearns being one of them.
Things went south for the 20-year-old on Thursday night when his Robinhood account displayed a negative balance of $730,165. As he described in his final note, he never approved margin trading and could not believe he was allowed to accumulate such losses.
Kearns possibly did not know that the negative balance his Robinhood account showed was not permanent. The account was supposed to adjust his balance after the underlying stock was transferred to his account.
“When he saw that $730,000 number as a negative, he thought that he had blown up his entire future. I mean this is a kid that when he was younger was so conscious about savings,” Bill Brewster, Kearns' cousin-in-law, told Forbes.
Robinhood will not disclose any details of Kearns’ account to protect his privacy. “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 company said in a statement.