In case you hadn’t heard, Showtime has inked a deal with Andrew Ross Sorkin, of Too Big to Fail fame, for twelve shows in its new series … Billions. The fictional drama features a New York U.S. attorney as the protagonist and, that’s right, a hedge fund billionaire as the antagonist.
Paul Giamatti, who played Ben Bernanke in the HBO production of Too Big to Fail, will take on the role of the U. S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades. Damian Lewis, who portrayed Major Richard Winters in Band of Brothers and Nicholas Brody in Homeland, will assume the antagonist’s role as Bobby Axelrod.
The story-line promises to follow the power and politics played out in Wall Street’s investment firms.
It is difficult to find fault with Sorkin’s financial and journalistic bona fides. Sorkin is co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box, founder of Deal Book, New York Times financial columnist and two-time Gerald Loeb award recipient, one of which he earned authoring his best-selling book, Too Big to Fail, published in 2009. Sorkin, quoted in the Hollywood Reporter, said, “We’ve long believed that the world of Wall Street is fertile ground for a drama.”
By “we” … Sorkin is acknowledging his co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien. Koppellman and Levien have worked together before, as the creative forces behind such notable films as Rounders, Runner Runner and Runaway Jury.
In short, there is a good deal of talent behind this pay television series – the first in which hedge funds figure prominently. Its potential is undeniable. Those in the industry can only hope that hedge funds and hedge fund managers will get a fair shake.
It is mildly concerning that these 12 episodes will air in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton has already attempted to paint the industry in a negative light by suggesting it has unfair tax advantages, even going so far as to imply that hedge fund billionaires pay less in taxes than truck drivers. While this is patently false, and earned her two Pinnochios, this bell is impossible to un-ring.
Potential voters will now be treated to twelve, hour-long fictional characterizations of the hedge fund industry and its players. Hopefully, the series will offer a fair portrayal of the industry and not devolve into a tool for either political party.
Hedge Fund Jobs
Clearly, no hedge fund jobs will be won or lost as a consequence of Showtime’s series. However, it is important for the industry to be aware of its impending release. Just as politicians followed West Wing and House of Cards, “hedgies” should follow Billions.
If it is an honest portrayal, as hoped, it has the potential to introduce the industry to thousands of new investors and inspire others to pursue a career in hedge funds. However, if it the portrayals are skewed, who better to raise the alarm than the tens of thousands who work with and within the hedge fund industry?