Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev apologizes to Alex Kearns’ family

  • CEO Vlad Tenev apologized to the family of a young Robinhood user who died by suicide.
  • Alex Kearns, 20, died by suicide after thinking he lost $730,000 through Robinhood.
  • “I’m sorry to the family of Mr. Kearns for your loss,” Tenev said during a Congressional hearing.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

CEO Vlad Tenev apologized to the family of a young Robinhood user who died by suicide. 

The family of Alexander Kearns, a 20-year-old University of Nebraska student, said the young man died by suicide after his Robinhood account appeared to show a loss of  $730,000. Tenev, speaking at Thursday’s Congressional hearing into the recent GameStop frenzy, said the loss of Kearns was “deeply troubling” to the entire company.

“I’m sorry to the family of Mr. Kearns for your loss,” Tenev said. “The passing of Mr. Kearns was deeply troubling to me and to the entire company.” 

The House Financial Services Committee had called a hearing to question Tenev and other executives from Reddit and major hedge funds on their role during GameStop’s unexpected rally in late January. 

Tenev said the company had increased educational materials on the app, tightened the requirements for people buying options, and added a live customer support line for acute options cases following Kearns’ death.

Bill Brewster, a representative for the family, previously confirmed Kearns’ negative $730,000 cash balance, which does not reflect a user’s portfolio value or debt owned. Brewster, a financial analyst, told Insider Kearns had left a note asking why someone so young was able to receive so much margin, or a loan against which investors can purchase stocks and options.

Tenev said in testimony to Congress that Robinhood users tend to be younger than the average investor. The average age of a Robinhood user is 31, he said, and half of users identify as first-time investors. 

Robinhood announced changes to the platform following Kearns’ death, and said the firm hired an options education specialist. 

At the hearing, Tenev said Robinhood is looking to expand the number of customer support call centers it uses. Robinhood will be expanding its live phone support beyond advanced options cases.

Dan and Dorothy Kearns, Alexander’s parents, filed a wrongful death suit against Robinhood. CBS News reported the suit claims Robinhood offers no “meaningful customer support” to investors.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.