Anti-hero Gordon Gekko, whose “greed, for lack of a better word, is good” line became part of popular culture, returns in the sequel to the hit 1987 movie “Wall Street,” and local money managers will be watching.
“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” opened nationwide Friday.
Unfortunately, the movies aren't just entertaining works of fiction, said Bob Kully of Kully Financial Services in Omaha.
“There is too much reality in these movies,” he said.
“Wall Street” nailed the lust for money and power that epitomized the decade of the '80s. The movie premiered after the Oct. 19 market crash, dubbed “Black Monday,” when the Dow dropped 22 percent in one day.
Financial issues still are front and center, with the nation slowly recovering from a recession caused in large part by subprime mortgage loans and exotic investment vehicles like derivatives. But whether “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” captures the spirit of the country remains to be seen.
Nothing has changed in the United States in the past 20 years, Kully said.
“There is greed all over the place.”
If anything, people are more concerned about unscrupulous behavior, and they should be, he said.
Gordon Gekko has nonfictional counterparts everywhere, Kully said.
New York financier Bernie Madoff is serving what amounts to a life sentence for operating a decades-long Ponzi scheme that resulted in the loss of $65 billion. Bryan Behrens of Omaha is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to defrauding investors of millions of dollars.
Those examples prove that people need to careful about whom they choose to handle their money, Kully said.
Matt Buckwalter of MJB Financial Planning said Wall Street has more than its share of people willing to blur the line of what's ethical or right to make money. Midwest values make Nebraska and Iowa safer from financial shenanigans, he said, but there will always be exceptions.
Several financial advisers said “Wall Street,” for which Michael Douglas won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Gekko, was exaggerated for dramatic effect.
Others, like Buckwalter, said it contains a measure of truth.
Ron Carson of Carson Wealth Management said the nation's financial establishment as epitomized by Wall Street “was corrupt then, and the system in my view is still rigged today.”
Insider trading was the culprit in the 1980s, but today the government is favoring the big banks with federal bailouts and low lending rates while ordinary savers are penalized by interest rates near zero, he said.
Russ Kaplan of Kaplan Investments said he doesn't believe a herd of real-life, greed-obsessed Gekkos caused the recession, which started in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009.
Smart people using flawed computer models to measure risk thought bundling mortgages and selling them to investors was a good decision, he said.
Most money managers want their clients to succeed, Kaplan said.
“We look for win-win situations,” he said. “If our customers do well, we do well.”
Rhonda Heineman, a financial planner with Egermier Wealth Management Group, said she hasn't seen “Wall Street” but plans to see its sequel.
“I want to see if there are any biases, or if it is how I understand the market works,” she said.
Kully said he was pleased with the country's efforts at financial reform, such as ordering banks to hold more cash in reserve to cover losses.
But people like the fictional Gekko and the all-too-real Madoff will continue to find ways to take advantage of any system, he said.
“Every 20 years or so if a group of people can be taken advantage of, they'll be taken advantage of. It's kind of sad,” Kully said.
Buckwalter said the Gekko character undoubtedly captures some of the personalities that shape Wall Street, which is one reason all the money managers interviewed said they plan to see “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
“It's a distorted picture,” but it's entertaining, Kaplan said.
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