When Hollywood Imitates Wall Street

Five examples of actors trying to be as cool as bankers
January 17, 2014

Margin Call (2011)


Written and directed by J.C Chandor, Margin Call stars Kevin Spacey as Sam Rogers, Head of Sales and Trading. Paul Bettany as Will Emerson, Head of Trading, Jeremy Irons as CEO and Chairman. Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer gives the film a 88% and an average user rating of 74%.

The head of risk management is fired after creating a model that shows the firm is in big trouble. The film then follows the bankers left behind, who struggle over a 24-hour period to save their livelihood, largely by knowingly dumping their toxic assets. (Sound familiar?)

Lesson: The movie seemed to gloss over the consequences on the market and liquidity when selling all the bank's toxic positions. There were no triggers or regulatory involvement. Today, systems and consequences are theoretically in place to predict, alert, and better control the aftershock.

Memorable Quote

Sam Rogers: You are panicking
John Tuld: If you're first out the door, that's not called panicking.
---
John Tuld: There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat.


Margin Call was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

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