In one of the stranger bits of mythology that has grown up around the great financial panic of 2008, hedge fund short-sellers somehow conspired to bring down mighty Wall Street firms. It is a particularly pernicious myth because it exonerates the firms themselves for their own mismanagement—and misleads the public and politicians into thinking that we have a really pressing need for hedge fund regulation.
Despite numerous debunkings, the anti-hedge fund story has some serious sticking power. And now it looks like it is going to really get cemented in the public mind. In Oliver Stone’s sequel to Wall Street, the villain is going to be a short seller who is so scary that Fox reportedly wanted the bad guy from No Country For Old Men to play the part.
Michael Douglas at least will reprise his role as Gordon Gekko, a corporate raider whom Forbes last year ranked at No. 4 on our list of the World’s 15 Richest Fictional Characters, with a net worth of $650 million. He’s just finished a prison sentence in the sequel, according to Deadlinehollywooddaily.com, while actor Shia LaBeouf will play a young trader engaged to Gekko’s estranged daughter.
The plot sees LaBeouf’s character suspect that a stock-shorting hedge fund manager–which distributor Twentieth Century Fox had originally hoped would be played by [Javier] Bardem–is somehow responsible for the surprise suicide of his mentor. The trader then goes to ex-con Gekko for help seeking revenge on the villainous hedge fund chief.
“So it seems that even Gordon Gekko is not evil enough to feed filmmakers’ anti-capitalism these days,” law professor Larry Ribstein notes. “And, oddly, hedge funds come off worst of all, despite the fact that they arguably had the least to do with our current mess.”
In a sense, we guess this makes sense. The “hedge funds did it” is the equivalent of the grassy-knoll gunman Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory, so it fits right in with Stone’s M.O.
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