Archive for the ‘Wall Street’ Category

Jordan Belfort: “The Wolf of Wall Street”

December 29, 2013

Jordan-Belfort

Martin Scorsese has a new film out titled The Wolf of Wall Street. It is based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, who in the 1990’s ran a brokerage firm called Stratton Oakmont that did illegal “pump and dump” schemes that got Belfort thrown into prison. I’m debating in my mind whether or not I should go see this movie. I found Scorsese’s last film, Hugo, dull and over-long. The Wolf of Wall Street clocks in at two hours and forty minutes. This doesn’t look promising.

One person who did see the movie was Christina McDowell, the daughter of Tom Prousalis, one of Belfort’s business partners at Stratton Oakmont. She has written an open letter to the makers of the film, in which she states:

    Belfort’s victims, my father’s victims, don’t have a chance at keeping up with the Joneses. They’re left destitute, having lost their life savings at the age of 80. They can’t pay their medical bills or help send their children off to college because of characters like the ones glorified in Terry Winters’ screenplay.

    Let me ask you guys something. What makes you think this man deserves to be the protagonist in this story? Do you think his victims are going to want to watch it? Did we forget about the damage that accompanied all those rollicking good times? Or are we sweeping it under the carpet for the sale of a movie ticket? And not just on any day, but on Christmas morning??

    I urge each and every human being in America NOT to support this film, because if you do, you’re simply continuing to feed the Wolves of Wall Street.

Another argument against seeing this movie. The L.A. Weekly has an interesting article about Belfort. In it, we learn that Belfort has only paid $11.6 million of the $110 million he owes his victims.

I’m told that Belfort now works as a motivational speaker. What kind of advice can someone with his background give to people? “Don’t start a company that fleeces people out of their life savings”? Out of curiosity, I looked at Belfort’s website. On the home page, it says:

    Right From The Smash Blockbuster Movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street”…
    THE STRAIGHT LINE PERSUASION SYSTEM
    REAL PROFITS FOR YOU… OR HOLLYWOOD MYTH?
    Can You Really Use The Wolf of Wall Street’s Sales Tactics To Ethically Persuade People And Make Money?

So, Belfort is using his criminal past to promote his motivational business. How ethical.

According to the above-mentioned L.A. Weekly article:

    Five years ago, the Weekly accompanied Belfort to one of his first speaking gigs, with the Young Entrepreneurs of Los Angeles. During the Q&A following his talk, Belfort had a stock answer whenever anyone questioned the morality of what he had done to his investors. “Hey, at least no one got killed,” he said several times.

At least no one got killed. That’s how low the bar is set in the business world.

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Cory Booker: Mitt Romney’s Best Friend

May 22, 2012


Cory Booker sharing a laugh with his good buddy, Chris Christie, the morbidly obese governor of New Jersey.

The Democrats have always been an extraordinarily feckless lot, but Newark Mayor Cory Booker has set a record for sheer stupidity. The most potent weapon in the Obama campaign’s meager arsenal is Romney’s history of sleazy business dealings. So, what does Booker do? He goes on Meet the Press and says of the Obama campaign’s criticism’s of Bain Capital, “It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough.” In almost no time, the Republicans put out a campaign ad featuring Booker’s comments. They also put out an online petition urging people to “Stand with Cory”. What Booker did was the political equivalent of hitting Obama in the knee with a tire iron.

Booker now complains that the Republicans have “manipulated” his comments. Well, duh. Booker attacks his own party’s electoral strategy, and he is surprised when the Republicans take advantage of this. Oh, please.

The Democrats are a joke. Always have been, always will be.

Third party anyone?

Margin Call

December 17, 2011

Years ago I applied for a job as a financial advisor. The interviews went great. I seemed to be a shoo-in for the job. The hiring manager, however, told me that every applicant was required to take a personality test. He assured me that this was just a formality. I took the test, and several days later I received a phone call from the manager. I could tell from the tone of his voice that it was not good news. He said that they could not give me the position, because, according to the test results, I was “too nurturing”. I swear, I’m not making this up.

Today I have a job working in a warehouse. The company that told me that I was “too nurturing” was generously bailed out by the government following the 2008 financial crisis. No doubt they have given bonuses to their unnurturing employees.

I was reminded of all this when I went to see Margin Call, written and directed by T.C. Chandor, a loosely fictionalized account of the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, which triggered the global economic meltdown in 2008. Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) is laid off from his job at a financial firm. As he is being escorted from the building, he hands, as an afterthought, a thumb drive containing a program he has been working on to Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), warning him to “be careful”. Puzzled by this enigmatic comment, Sullivan begins crunching numbers with the program, and late in the evening he discovers that the company is in immediate danger of becoming insolvent. Right away, he calls his fellow employee, Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley), and senior salesman, Will Emerson (Paul Bettany), who then tells the head of sales, Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), about this. By the early morning, a meeting has been convened with the top members of the company, including the head of risk, Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore), the head of securities, Jared Cohen (Simon Baker), and the CEO, John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). Tuld decides that the best thing they can do is sell off all of the company’s assets during the next trading day, even though this could cause a financial panic and put them out of business.

This film features fine ensemble acting. I especially liked Irons’s performance. He oozes smug complacency as he makes a decision that will ruin many people’s lives. Spacey is, as always, completely on the mark.

Margin Call quietly points out the insanity of an economic system in which bad decisions by one company can cause a global crisis. It also points out how non-productive and personally corrupting the financial system is. Rogers, for example, is strongly opposed to what the company is doing, but he ends up going along with it, because, as he explains, “I need the money”. The need for money guides the actions of all the characters in varying ways, while one gets the uncomfortable feeling that there is something lacking in their lives. In one scene, Tuld tries to console Rogers by telling him that he could have spent his life digging ditches. “If I had spent my life digging ditches, I would at least have holes in the ground to show for it,” Rogers says. This is one of the best lines I have ever heard in a movie. In another scene, Dale, a former engineer, reminisces about how he once designed a bridge. He inwardly yearns for a time when he made a positive contribution to other people’s lives. (Uh, would it be cynical to say that he wants to be “nurturing”?)

Margin Call is one of the best films of the year.