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Clover Health shares dip as SEC probes short-seller allegations

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Clover Health shares dip as SEC probes short-seller allegations

The Securities and Exchange Commission is following up on a critical report about Clover Health by short-selling specialist Hindenburg Research and has told the insurance company to preserve any relevant documents.

Clover, backed by venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, said Friday it would cooperate with the request from the SEC.

The company’s share price at noon Friday was down 2.1 percent, at $11.97.

Clover said the SEC had requested “document and data preservation for the period from January 1, 2020, to the present, relating to certain matters that are referenced in the (Hindenburg) article.”

The company also disclosed a separate earlier inquiry from the US Department of Justice, but added it had not received any civil investigative demands or subpoenas from the department.

Palihapitiya and the company were fully aware of the DOJ inquiry, which it did not consider as “material information” for its earlier disclosures, Clover said.

On Thursday, Hindenburg published a scathing report, the title of which called Clover a “broken business,” and accused the company of not disclosing a DOJ investigation into its business model and its software offering, Clover Assistant.

The insurance firm’s shares fell more than 12 percent, their biggest daily percentage drop in four months, following the report.

Clover said Friday some of the claims were “completely untrue” and executives Vivek Garipalli and Andrew Toy said in a separate blog post that the report was “rife with ad-hominem attacks, sweeping inaccuracies and gross mischaracterizations.”

Hindenburg was the first major short-selling research house to publish a new report since the eruption two weeks ago of the battle between short-sellers and investors over GameStop and a number of other stocks.

Clover, which sells Medicare-backed insurance plans, went public through a $3.7 billion deal with a special purpose acquisition company backed by Palihapitiya. Its other investors include Google parent Alphabet and Silicon Valley-based venture capital giant Sequoia Capital.

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Robinhood exec wants users to stop worrying about its business model

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Robinhood exec wants users to stop worrying about its business model

Beleaguered no-fee trading app Robinhood is now turning to its chief operating officer to help quell backlash over its response to the “Reddit rally” in January.

In a Thursday blog post, Robinhood COO Jim Swartwout vowed to “demystify” the company’s controversial practice of selling order flow to Wall Street.

Swartwout, a 50-year-old former executive at online brokerages E*Trade and TDAmeritrade, told users that selling order flow to market makers is the only way it can offer its product for free. Robinhood, he said, only makes “two-tenths of a penny” for every share bought and sold on the platform.

“To compete with exchanges, market makers offer us rebates,” Swartwout said. “Market makers typically give you better prices than exchanges.”

The business model has become a PR albatross for the trading platform ever since its controversial decision in late January to bar users from buying shares of popular stock like GameStop.

It’s raised the eyebrows of politicians, who pressed Robinhood chief Vlad Tenev and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin on best execution during a Congressional hearing on Feb 18. Citadel pays Robinhood for its order flow.

Critics have also attacked the app’s “gamification” of trading via an interface that drops virtual confetti and balloons across screens to encourage trading.

Even prior to the latest controversy, Robinhood has come under scrutiny by regulators who fined the company in 2019 for failing to get its customers what is called “best execution” on their trades.

But Swartwout on Thursday insisted this is the golden age for traders.

“It’s easy to see why there’s no better time to be a retail investor,” he writes.

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Lenders mull plan to take Hertz public post-bankruptcy

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Lenders mull plan to take Hertz public post-bankruptcy

There’s a battle brewing over Hertz that could determine whether the car rental company — and original “meme stock” — remains a publicly traded company, The Post has learned.

Hertz on Tuesday proposed exiting bankruptcy by putting a group of new investors in the driver’s seat, including Knighthead Capital Management, Certares Opportunities and Larry Fink’s Blackrock.

The investors have offered to spend between $2.3 billion and $4.2 billion for a controlling stake in Hertz, which would be privately held.

But Hertz’s unsecured lenders, a group that includes JPMorgan, Fidelity and hedge fund Pentwater Capital, are considering slamming the brakes on that plan in favor of their own proposal to pull the company out of bankruptcy via an initial public offering, sources said.

The IPO plan, which has been submitted to Hertz but not yet to the bankruptcy court, calls for the unsecured lenders to convert their debt to stock and then “immediately list” the company on an exchange, a source close to the lenders told The Post.

“I think the process to sell the company has really just begun,” this person said. “Our group controls the vote. Anyone wanting to buy Hertz has to kiss our ring.”

Indeed, the unsecured lenders, a group that also includes Bank of America and Marathon Asset Management and AllianceBernstein, own more than 60 percent of the company’s $4.6 billion in corporate debt, which sources say could make it hard for the Delaware court bankruptcy judge to approve a sale over their objections.

The lenders plan to push their IPO plan to judge unless the Knighthead deal is sweetened. It currently values Hertz’s unsecured loans at around 70 cents on the dollar while making first- and second-lien lenders whole.

Plans for a post-bankruptcy Hertz IPO comes as small investors clamor to buy small cap stocks popular on trading forums like Reddit’s WallStreetBets, or so-called “meme stocks.” In fact, Hertz was one of the first stocks to benefit from chatter on Reddit after its sales got crushed by pandemic lockdowns — resulting in a buying frenzy that sent shares of the bankrupt company as high as $5.53 a share last year.

Of course, current shareholders will be wiped out regardless of which plan wins the day, an outcome that is reflected in Hertz’s stock price of 87 cents a share.

The new investors looking to buy Hertz have been calling junior lenders individually in an effort to come to an agreement, sources said. But skeptical lenders have only to point to rival car maker Avis, which has doubled in price since October amid growing expectations that travel will rebound as people get vaccinated against Covid-19, sources added.

On Wednesday, the Hertz rival closed at a six-year high of $60.85 a share.

“The price looks cheap relative to Avis,” agreed Jefferies analyst Hamzah Mazari of the Knighthead deal, which values Hertz at just 6.5 times its pre-pandemic earnings.

Avis, by contrast, is trading at 8.6 times is pre-Covid earnings. And Hertz on Tuesday estimated that revenue will rise from nearly $6.1 billion this year to $8.6 billion in 2023 as more people get vaccinated.

“They are trying to steal the company,” one junior lender source griped told The Post. “This seems value destructive. Imagine if a public company took an offer 14 percent below the trading price?”

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NY Times slammed for seeking opinion editor with ‘spine of steel’

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NY Times slammed for seeking opinion editor with 'spine of steel'

The New York Times is catching heat over a new job posting that seeks an opinion editor with a “spine of steel” — fresh on the heels of the paper losing three staffers who published controversial columns.

The Gray Lady posted a job ad Wednesday for a deputy opinion editor to help oversee a desk that’s been mired in controversy for much of the past year.

“We’re looking for an editor with a sense of humor and a spine of steel, a confident point of view and an open mind, an appetite for risk and exacting standards for excellence in writing and visual presentation,” the posting reads.

Commentators and journalists slammed the ad’s phrasing on Twitter, suggesting it smelled of hypocrisy following last year’s departures of editorial page editor James Bennet, editorial assistant Adam Rubenstein and columnist Bari Weiss.

“Essentially a complete list of characteristics NOT welcome among Times editors,” tweeted Dan McLaughlin, a senior writer at the right-leaning National Review.

“Someone who fits this description wouldn’t last a day at the @nytimes,” wrote Joe Walsh, a conservative radio host and former Republican congressman.

Newsweek deputy opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon took issue with the want ad’s claim that the Times’ opinion team “aims to promote the most important and provocative debate across a range of subjects.”

“The NYT literally fired James Bennet for doing this exact thing,” Ungar-Sargon tweeted. “It outed Adam Rubenstein and tossed him to the wolves for doing this exact thing. It allowed Bari Weiss to be bullied out of the newsroom for doing this exact thing. Just totally shameless.”

Bennet stepped down last June after the Times published an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) arguing that then-President Donald Trump should deploy the military to quell the Black Lives Matter protests that were sweeping the nation.

The piece, titled “Send In The Troops,” sparked a public protest among Times staffers, many of whom tweeted, “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.” Bennet initially defended the piece, arguing the Times owed it to its readers “to show them counter-arguments,” but later apologized and admitted he didn’t read the article.

Weiss left the Gray Lady about a month later with a scathing resignation letter accusing her colleagues of engaging in a “new McCarthyism” and claiming Twitter had become the paper’s “ultimate editor.”

And Rubenstein, the editorial assistant who edited Cotton’s op-ed, resigned in December, some six months after the initial controversy, according to the Daily Beast.

Spokespeople for the Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

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