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In the classic Oliver Stone 1987 movie, Wall Street, the Gordon Gekko character played by Michael Douglas, became an icon of the decade because of his mantra on greed. More than two decades later, in the sequel Wall Street:Money Never Sleeps, the free-from-prison Gekko says: "Someone reminded me I once said 'Greed is good.' Now it seems it's legal. Because everyone is drinking the same Kool Aid."
In the 1987 movie, Gordon Gekko had spoken of America as a second-rate power; its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit at nightmare proportions and the "malfunctioning corporation called the USA."
Gordon Gekko rants: "The richest one percent of this country owns half our country's wealth, $5 trillion. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It's bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it. You've got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I've still got a lot to teach you."
At the Teldar Paper Stockholders' meeting, Gekko says:"Well, I appreciate the opportunity you're giving me Mr. Cromwell as the single largest shareholder in Teldar Paper, to speak. Well, ladies and gentlemen we're not here to indulge in fantasy but in political and economic reality. America, America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. Now, in the days of the free market when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the stockholder. The Carnegies, the Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake. Today, management has no stake in the company! All together, these men sitting up here own less than three percent of the company. And where does Mr. Cromwell put his million-dollar salary? Not in Teldar stock; he owns less than one percent. You own the company. That's right, you, the stockholder. And you are all being royally screwed over by these, these bureaucrats, with their luncheons, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes."
Cromwell: "This is an outrage! You're out of line Gekko!"
Gordon Gekko: "Teldar Paper, Mr. Cromwell, Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents each earning over $200,000 a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can't figure it out. One thing I do know is that our paper company lost $110 million last year, and I'll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents. The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. In the last seven deals that I've been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of $12 billion. Thank you. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much."
Click for the full speech to Teldar Paper Stockholders.
Michael Lewis who recounted his life as a bond salesman in Liar's Poker and his latest book on the financial crisis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, has hit the peaks on the New York Times best-seller list, has two articles in the April issue of the magazine.
The first, "Betting on the Blind Side", is a chapter from his latest book. The moral of the chapter's Michael Burry story seems to be that the "financial inventions" of the "pointy-headed" math nerds, when further encapsulated in equally unfathomable legalese (a combination called "a prospectus"), are so utterly unreadable that only an autistic (preferably, one from the upper "tranche" of autism, called "Asperger's syndrome"), can make it through from beginning to end.
Michael Burry always saw the world differently - - due, he believed, to the childhood loss of one eye. So when the 32-year-old investor spotted the huge bubble in the subprime-mortgage bond market, in 2004, then created a way to bet against it, he wasn’t surprised that no one understood what he was doing. In an excerpt from his new book, The Big Short, the author charts Burry’s oddball maneuvers, his almost comical dealings with Goldman Sachs and other banks as the market collapsed, and the true reason for his visionary obsession.
Obsessiveness - - that was another trait he came to think of as peculiar to himself. His mind had no temperate zone: he was either possessed by a subject or not interested in it at all. There was an obvious downside to this quality—he had more trouble than most faking interest in other people’s concerns and hobbies, for instance—but an upside, too. Even as a small child he had a fantastic ability to focus and learn, with or without teachers. When it synched with his interests, school came easy for him—so easy that, as an undergraduate at U.C.L.A., he could flip back and forth between English and economics and pick up enough pre-medical training on the side to get himself admitted to the best medical schools in the country. He attributed his unusual powers of concentration to his lack of interest in human interaction, and his lack of interest in human interaction … well, he was able to argue that basically everything that happened was caused, one way or the other, by his fake left eye.
Now some 20 years after Michael Lewis captured the greed and hubris of the 80’s in Liar’s Poker he’s back with a book that’s being called "The single best piece of financial journalism ever written." In ‘The Big Short Inside: the Doomsday Machine’ Lewis chronicles a handful of key players who got it right in the subprime mortgage market - - and made billions:
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is due to be released next September and Michael Lewis writes on the 1987 Gordon Gekko: "As a vehicle for social change, however, the movie was a catastrophe. It did not show Wall Street in its best light, yet Wall Street was, by far, the movie’s most enthusiastic audience. It has endured not because it hit its intended target but because it missed: people who work on Wall Street still love it. And not just any Wall Street people but precisely those who might have either taken Stone’s morality tale to heart or been offended by it. To wit, not long before hedge-fund manager Seth Tobias was found dead in his Florida swimming pool, with an unlucky mixture of cocaine, Ambien, and alcohol in his bloodstream, he gave an interview for Wall Street’s DVD bonus reel, in which he said, “I remember when I saw the movie in 1987. I recall saying, That’s what I want to be. I want to start out as Bud Fox and end up as Gordon Gekko.
Michael Douglas often expresses his astonishment at the many Wall Street males who have sought him out in public places just to say, 'Man, I want to tell you, you are the single biggest reason I got into the business. I watched Wall Street, and I wanted to be Gordon Gekko.' The film’s equally perplexed screenwriter, Stanley Weiser, has made the same point, in a different way. 'We wanted to capture the hyper-materialism of the culture,' he said. 'That was always the intent of the movie. Not to make Gordon Gekko a hero.''