money movie3

Scrooge Archetype...
How much the film industry shapes our perceptions or reflects public opinion of finance professionals is debatable, though a review of just a handful of well-known money-related movies reveals recurring themes of mistrust. Maybe the most notorious of such film figures is that of Ebenezer Scrooge, portrayed by Charles Dickens as the archetype of putting profits before people. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund manager from the series Billions, has become another well-known fictional finance icon. For Bobby’s character, illegal and unethical actions like bribes for material non-public information (insider info) is a regular business practice.

Stars As Investors
Some of Hollywood’s most prominent figures have taken on the role of the unscrupulous or irresponsible finance pro. Insider information trading and stock price manipulation are portrayed in the 1987 film “Wall Street,” starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. Kevin Bacon’s character in the 1986 film “Quicksilver” loses all his parents’ savings in a single, risky trade. In the 2012 film “Arbitrage,” Richard Gere plays a hedge fund manager who forces his daughter to help him commit accounting fraud.

Wolf Den 
The 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” is about an actual hedge fund manager who defrauded investors with pump-and-dump schemes, manipulating stock prices through salesmanship and misleading statements. While “The Wolf of Wall Street” may be a well-known investment movie, it might not be based on the most well-known investor. Warren Buffett may be more familiar to readers than the investor played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Perhaps quick money through rampant fraud is more entertaining than the long-term, math-heavy investment style of Mr. Buffett; who has yet to have a drama produced about him.

Skewed Views...
We may never know the extent to which movies either influence or reflect public opinion. However, with only around half of Americans participating in retirement plans, films may be one of the few examples many have of finance professionals. While no system run by humans may ever be completely free from bad actors or excessive risk takers, the extreme recklessness, fraud, and excess portrayed in many finance films may not give the most accurate representation of what the average investor can expect from the services of a typical investment advisor. Let us know if you have a favorite money movie. In future editions of Markets Demystified, we will feature individual movies and explore how they represent the finance industry.

August 4, 2021

*Films mentioned in this article may contain adult-oriented content. Viewer discretion is advised.

Markets Demystified is published the first and second Wednesdays of each month,
and is meant to help readers understand how stock market investing relates to household and personal finance.

Thanks for Reading!

Jonathon Oden
Owner | Aesop Advisor LLC

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