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Robinhood Faces a Feared Regulator With Even More Tools Than the SEC

William Galvin of Massachusetts, long a nemesis of Wall Street, is suing the brokerage, which he says is taking advantage of young, inexperienced investors.
Galvin

Galvin

Photographer: Tony Luong for Bloomberg Businessweek

William Galvin is as old school as they come, even for a state securities regulator. Galvin, 70, drives an Impala, uses a flip phone, and leaves the emailing and tweeting to his staff. But he may turn out to be the worst nightmare of Robinhood Markets, the company whose zero-commission brokerage app captivates millennial and Gen Z investors.

Galvin is the secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, a position he’s held since 1995, when the founders of Robinhood were still in grade school. In that time, Galvin turned the office that oversees elections, historic preservation, and record-keeping into a financial regulator that’s sometimes ahead of its national counterparts. He’s won penalties from such Wall Street giants as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, as well as local icons like the mutual fund manager Putnam Investments.