3 Stars – Intriguing
Most of us have little understanding of the underbelly of the stock exchanges. From the importance of a microsecond in high speed computer trading to the confidentiality of the “black pools” to the strengths and weaknesses of hedge funds, the modern world of finance is ripe for both manipulation and fraud. When we invest what small amount of money we have only to have the market experience a “correction” or a “hair cut” or some other euphemism for losing some or all of it, we don’t even know where to turn let alone what to do. In frustration we would like to hold someone accountable. That desire is the theme of Jodie Fosters’ Money Monster.
The trio at the center of this intriguing tale brings a devastated investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) onto the set of a television show directed by Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) and staring the egotistical showman Lee Gates (George Clooney). Titled Money Monster, the spectacle showcases Gates as a financial advisor yet it becomes immediately clear that he doesn’t really understand the nuances of the market for which he claims expertise. When he advises his listeners to buy a specific stock, Budwell follows his counsel and invests his entire inheritance he received from his mother. But due to a “computer glitch” the $75 stock is now worth one tenth that amount. Angry and obsessed Budwell comes onto the set to hold Gates accountable.
Although this is only the beginning of the story, it raises an obvious question: Are those who advise investors accountable for their advice? Does this accountability include the “entertainers” on TV who give financial advice? Although it could be argued that no sane person would trust a television showman with their family’s fortune, the truth is that professional advisors are also free from accountability. It is true that an investor can change advisors, but that does nothing to restore the loss. Recent laws are attempting to raise the bar to a “’fiduciary’ standard, which requires them to put their clients’ financial interests above their own.”[i]
However, it is clear that the CEO of the company in which Budwell invested, Walt Camby (Dominic West), had only his own interests in mind. In this instance there is more to the story than just poor advice but the result to the investors is still a staggering loss regardless of the cause.
Having the ability to trust one another is a vital part of a sound financial system. However, it is naïve to think that trust is possible without accountability. Accountability is a necessary part of our shared experience because the human heart’s greed, anger and vengeance is rampant. What is needed is for the human heart to be changed, but until then we are all susceptible to both self-serving TV personalities and charlatan CEOs.
- When you invest where do you turn for advice? Why did you choose that person or resource and what is your level of trust in them?
- It is very difficult to understand the complexity of computer-assisted stock trading. Do you believe the risk of manipulation through computers increases or decreases trust?
- The obsession with money can cause people to do very evil things. How do you withstand the temptation of greed?