"Margin Call" Film Review, and Life Imitates Art at MF Global
Margin Call, Lehman, MFGlobal
Margin Call is a not-so-thinly disguised fictionalized movie story of the 2008 demise of 100-year-old investment bank, Lehman Brothers, which was the second (after Bear Stearns) Wall Street casualty of the subprime mortgage fiasco.
The New Yorker reviewer, David Denby, called it "one of the strongest American films of the year and easily the best Wall Street movie ever made" and said the "writing and acting are so good that we get completely caught up." He also compared the movie favorably to Glengarry Glen Ross, citing David Mamet's influence on the young writer-director, David Chandor. That's high praise for Chandor's first feature film. The script and acting were indeed good, but in my opinion, the movie was not better than Oliver Stone's 1987 Wall Street for which Michael Douglas won an Oscar as the legendary Gordon "greed is good" Gekko. Nor is it in the same league with the powerful Glengarry Glen Ross.
The movie covers 24 hours of the crisis that led to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. The all-star cast includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore and Simon Baker. Spacey plays the number three man at Lehman, a decent man who agonized over the morality of dumping the "greatest pile of odoriferous excrement" (subprime mortgage securities) on Lehman's unsuspecting customers.
Spacey's bosses, Jeremy Irons, the firm's CEO John Tuld (Lehman's CEO was Dick Fuld) and Simon Baker exhibit zero moral compunctions over dumping the toxic securities. The audience's first clue to Spacey's decency is one of the opening scenes in which Spacey is grieving over having to euthanize his pet dog. Later in the day we find him attempting to rationalize the morality of dumping the firms toxic securities on its customers as ordered by Irons' character, John Tuld.
Demi Moore who played the firm's chief risk assessment officer takes the fall for the disaster despite having warned Tuld of the excessive leverage and risk the firm was taking on. Stanley Tucci is outstanding as the subordinate risk officer who discovered that the firm's highly leveraged position combined with the decline in the subprime securities had put the firm in a negative net worth position, i.e. bankrupt. Zachary Quinto convincingly played Tucci's assistant, a Phd rocket scientist from M.I.T. who came to Wall Street for the money. After Tucci was fired Quinto explained the peril faced by the firm to Jeremy Irons. Without giving any more of the plot away, suffice it to say that the film didn't have a happy ending.
LEHMAN BROS., MARGIN CALL REDUX AT MF GLOBAL
MF Global's meltdown in October could as easily as Lehman Brothers have provided the basis for the scenario in Margin Call with the added feature of Jon Corzine, a Horatio Alger CEO who came out of nowhere in Illinois and rose to CEO of Goldman, a seat in the U.S. Senate and governor of New Jersey. MF Global could easily have provided fodder for a Greek or Shakesperian tragedy or perhaps a dark play by Eugene O'Neill or Arthur Miller.
“Margin Call” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Obscene language and obscene sums of money.
9-9-13NYTimes--"Inside the End of the U.S. Bid to Punish Lehman Brothers Executives"
- Inside the End of the U.S. Bid to Punish Lehman Executives
"Not a single senior executive from any Wall Street bank faced criminal charges from the crisis, either. And the government’s deadline for filing most charges will expire this month, the anniversary of Lehman’s collapse...."
9-14-08NYTimes--Lehman Bankrupt, Merrill Sold
- Lehman Files for Bankruptcy; Merrill Is Sold - NYTimes.com
Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection, while Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself to Bank of America.
Roger Ebert Review of Margin Call
- :: rogerebert.com ::
"Margin Call" depicts the last night of good times on Wall Street, as a deadly certainty travels up the executive ladder at an investment firm: Disastrous speculation in the mortgage markets is leading to the firm's collapse.
A.O. Scott review of Margin Call
- Movie Review: 'Margin Call' - NYTimes.com
The New York Times's A.O. Scott writes that J. C. Chandor's film "is a tale of greed, vanity, myopia and expediency that is all the more damning for its refusal to moralize."
Rolling Stone Review by Peter Travers
- Margin Call | Movie Reviews | Rolling Stone
Want to be a fly on the wall when a gaggle of investment bankers precipitate the 2008 financial crisis? Step up for Margin Call, a thrillingly intense
Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers--Wikipedia
- Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
See also: Lehman Brothers Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 15, 2008. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history with Lehman holding over $600 billion in assets.
- Lehman Brothers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lehman was a global financial services firm. Before declaring bankruptcy in 2008, Lehman was the fourth largest investment bank in the USA (behind Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch), doing business in investment banking, equity and bon
11-18-11NYTimes--"Rise of a Euro Doomsayer" Landon Thomas, Jr.
- Analyst’s Longtime Skepticism on Euro Gains Traction - NYTimes.com
Bernard Connolly’s proposition that foisting a common currency upon many disparate nation states would end in ruin is getting a much wider hearing. Too bad Jon Corzine wasn't a subscriber to Connolly's advisory service!!!
12-29-11SFChronicle--"Wall Street is a Raw Deal for the 100 Percent" Leland H. Faust
- Wall Street is a Raw Deal for Everyone
Leland Faust provides 10 reasons why Wall Street is a raw deal for "the 100 percent."
11-14-12NYTimes-"Congressional Report Blames Corzine for MF Global's Collapse"
- Congressional Report Blames Corzine for MF Global's Collapse - NYTimes.com
Excerpts from a broader MF Global report to be released on Thursday outline a withering critique of Jon S. Corzine's 19-month tenure at the brokerage firm, which collapsed more than a year ago.
8-16-12NYTimes--"No Criminal Case is Likely in Loss at MFGlobal"
- No Criminal Case Is Likely in Loss at MF Global - NYTimes.com
Investigators are expected to conclude that sloppiness, not criminal intent, was the main driver behind the disappearance of customer money.
6-9-12NYTimes--Trustee Sees Customers Trampled at MF Global
- Trustee Suggests MF Global Misused Customers’ Money - NYTimes.com
A report on the collapse of MF Global reveals a questionable series of moves that indicate the firm failed in its duty to protect the assets of its clients.
4-1-12NYTimes--MFGlobal--"The checks are in the mail!"
- MF Global Clients Dispute Return of Funds by Check - NYTimes.com
A group representing MF Global customers is trying to prove that the firm delayed returning its money, using checks rather than wire transfers, in an attempt to stay afloat.
3-27-12NYTimes--Christing Serwinski MFGlobal Treasurer Saw Early Warning Signs on Customer Money
- MF Global Executive Saw Early Warning Sign on Customer Money - NYTimes.com
Christine Serwinski, MF Global's North American chief financial officer, is expected to tell a House panel that an internal report showed "a substantial deficit" in the amount of firm money used to protect customer accounts.
3-26-12NYTimes Dealbook--Can a criminal case be built at MFGlobal?
- Building a Criminal Case in the MF Global Affair - NYTimes.com
White-collar cases are frequently built on circumstantial evidence like e-mails and brief conversations that may be subject to conflicting interpretations about what was actually meant.
3-26-12NYTimes--Email to Corzine Said Funds Transfer Was Not Customer Money
- E-Mail to Corzine Said Transfer Was From MF Global, Not Client Funds - NYTimes.com
The e-mail did not capture the full story behind the $175 million wire transfer, which turned out to contain customer money.
3-13-12NYTimes OP-ED "Is MFGlobal Getting a Free Pass?" Joe Nocera
- Is MF Global Getting a Free Pass? - NYTimes.com
No prosecution at all in the case would send a terrible message to the rest of us.
2-28-12NYTimes--Doubtful Signs of a Criminal Case Against MF Global
- Doubtful Signs of a Criminal Case Against MF Global - NYTimes.com
Federal authorities are struggling to find evidence to support a criminal case stemming from the collapse of MF Global, even after a federal grand jury in Chicago has issued subpoenas.
2-26-12NYTimes--Investigators Scrutinize MFGlobal Wire Transfers of Customer Funds
- Investigators Scrutinize MF Global Wire Transfers - NYTimes.com
A suspicious transfer of $325 million that may have belonged to customers, first discovered in the early hours of Oct. 31, is among the wire transfers investigators are poring over.
2-11-12NYTimes "Estimate for Missing Cash at MFGlobal Increased to $1.6 Billion"
- MF Global Trustee Sees $1.6 Billion Customer Shortfall - NYTimes.com
The revised figure reflects growing concerns that the bankruptcy trustee cannot claw back $700 million in customer money trapped at MF Global's British arm. [Which shell is the pea under?]
2-7-12NYTimes--"MF Global Investigator Sheds Light on Chaos at Firm"
- MF Global Trustee Sheds New Light on Chaos at Firm - NYTimes.com
Underpinning the misuse of customer money was a state of utter chaos at the firm, investigators said, as it rushed to sell assets and unwind positions to stay afloat.
1-10-12NYTimes--U.S. Inquiry at MF Global Gains Speed
- U.S. Inquiry of MF Global Gains Speed - NYTimes.com
Federal authorities have unearthed new details in their hunt for roughly $1.2 billion in customer money that disappeared from the brokerage firm, but obstacles still loom.
12-29-11NYT DEALBOOK--MF Global Scrutinized on Transfers of Customers' Money to Meet Margin Calls
- MF Global Scrutinized on Money Move - NYTimes.com
New findings strengthen the belief that the company was improperly used customer money to make up for losses on highly leveraged ((40:1)bets on European bonds. Corzine must not have seen the movie "Margin Call"!
12-15-11NYTimes--Corzine Again Denies Knowledge of Improper Use of Client Funds
- Corzine Denies Knowing That MF Global Was Tapping Client Funds - NYTimes.com
"I don't know of any loan that was backed by customer funds," MF Global's former chief executive told a House panel. "I wouldn't have authorized it."
- Corzine Replaced Risk Officer Who Argued with Him with a More Compliant Risk Officer
A new risk officer at MF Global was not allowed to weigh in on the broader implications that trades might have on the firm, including whether they might undermine investor confidence. MF Global is sounding more and more like "Margin Call."
12-14-11Reuters--Surprise! Corzine Knew About Misues of Customer Funds
- MF\'s Corzine said to know of customer fund misuse| Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The regulatory arm of CME Group has turned over interviews to the Justice Department that allege former MF Global chief Jon Corzine knew that the now-bankrupt brokerage firm used customer funds improperly.
12-13-11NYT--MF Global Inquiry Shifts to Two Trusted Deputies--Bradley Abelow and Henri Steenkamp
- MF Global Inquiry Shifts to Two Trusted Deputies - NYTimes.com
Two top executives at MF Global are expected to offer little insight on the whereabouts of more than $1 billion in customer money at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.
12-12-11NYTimes--"A Romance With Risk Brought on a Panic at MF Global"
- A Romance With Risk That Brought On a Panic - NYTimes.com
Jon Corzine's $6.3 billion bet on European sovereign debt turned out to be profitable, but the fear it induced brought down MF Global. In the meantime, the search is on for $1 billion in customer money that has gone missing.
12-10-11NYTimes--"A Risk Once Unthinkable" James B. Stewart
- An Unthinkable Risk at a Brokerage Firm - NYTimes.com
MF Global had internal controls and a chief compliance officer, so how did it lose $1.2 billion of customer funds that were, by law, untouchable?
12-10-11NYTimes "Trades are Linked to Missing MF Global Funds" Michael J. de la Merced
The trustee liquidating MF Global’s brokerage unit has spotted suspicious trades in customer accounts that appear connected to a $1.2 billion shortfall, the trustee’s lawyer said Friday.
12-9-12NYTimes--Corzine Stunned by Missing $1.2 Billion in Customers' Money
- Corzine Defends His Actions at MF Global - NYTimes.com
At a House hearing on his firm's collapse, a humbled Jon S. Corzine insisted that he "never intended to break any rules" while running MF Global.
12-7-11RollingStone--Corzine Too Chummy With Gary Gensler??
- Jon Corzine\'s Relationship With CFTC Chair Gary Gensler Probed | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone
Both Corzine and Gensler worked at Goldman back in the day, and the word is that Corzine personally lobbied Gensler to delay the implementation of new rules that would have helped prevent Corzine from raiding his own clients' funds. This whole issue
11-29-11NYT Dealbook--$200 Million MF Global Funds Found in UK at JP Morgan. Which Shell is the Wall Street Pea Under?
- Money Found in Britain May Belong to MF Global - NYTimes.com
About $200 million in customer money that vanished from MF Global is believed to have surfaced at JPMorgan Chase in Britain, according to people briefed on the matter. Just a little help among friends!
11-23-11NYT Dealbook---MF Global Missing $1.2 BILLION!
- MF Global Trustee Says Shortfall Could Exceed $1.2 Billion - NYTimes.com
The court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of MF Global's brokerage now estimates that the shortfall in the firm's customer funds could be more than $1.2 billion, double previous estimates. Corzine's big bets ended up in BIG LOSSES.
11-18-11NYTimes--MF Global Used Customer Cash as Collateral for Risky Loans
- MF Global Is Said to Have Used Customer Cash Improperly - NYTimes.com
Investigators are zeroing in on suspect borrowing at the commodities and derivatives brokerage firm.
11-9-11NYTimes--MFGlobal Board of Directors Culpable?
- A Board Complicit in MF Global's Bets, and Its Demise - NYTimes.com
Boards need to take responsibility to create a culture that serves to check risk effectively. The MF Global board appears to have failed at this task.
11-6-11NYTimes OP Ed--"Our Reckless Meritocracy" Ross Douthat
- Our Reckless Meritocracy - NYTimes.com
Corzine's is a story of the promise of America. A boy from rural Ill, grandson of a farmer who lost it all in the Depression. He goes to his small-town high school and makes Phi Bete at his state U, an HBS MBA and on to CEO of Goldman and the Senate.
11-28-11Bloomberg--MFGlobal Meltdown Makes You Wonder About Goldman and Other Firms
- MF’s Missing Money Makes You Wonder About Goldman: Jonathan Weil - Bloomberg
Six months ago the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP said MF Global Holdings Ltd. and its units “maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2011.” A lot of people who relied on t
11-6-11NYTimes--Gretchen Morgensen on MF Global
- In MF Global, Sad Proof of Europe’s Fallout - NYTimes.com
who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes? So who says that American financial institutions have little to no exposure to the problems across the Atlantic? The MF Global mess shows otherwise.
11-4-11NYTIMES DEALBOOK: Corzine Resigns from MF Global
- Corzine Resigns From MF Global - NYTimes.com
Jon Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey who stepped down as chairman and chief executive of the bankrupt brokerage, will not seek $12 million severance payments.
11-4-11NYTimes--MF Global Demise Raises Questions About Financial Oversight
- MF Global and Jefferies Raise Concern for Oversight - NYTimes.com
Questions about the adequacy of regulation of midlevel finanical companies have taken greater urgency following MF Global’s failure and the plunge in shares of the Jefferies Group.
11-2-11NYTimesDealbook--Many Alarms Rang Before MF Global Crashed and Burned
- Many Alarms Rang Before MF Global Crashed - NYTimes.com
Regulators issued warnings for more than four months, telling MF Global that it needed to raise more capital. But the firm's chief executive, Jon S. Corzine, is said to have resisted.
11-3-11NYTimes--Corzine's Good Bet/Bad Timing? Floyd Norris
- MF Global: Good Bets, Bad Timing? - NYTimes.com
Jon Corzine's firm may yet be proved right in anticipating that Europe would not let countries like Italy and Spain default. But it will be too late.
Jon S. Corzine's MF Global Meltdown Could Provide Fodder for a Sequel Movie Called "Return of Margin Call" or "Margin Call II"
The Jon Corzine's MF Global meltdown which followed the release of Margin Call by a few weeks could easily provide food for a sequel, The Return of Margin Call. Former head of Goldman Sachs, Democratic US Senator and NJ Governor, Corzine's actions at MF Global followed the Margin Call scenario: 40:1 leveraged bets on risky bonds (high yielding Spanish and Italian sovereign debt rather than toxic sub-prime mortgages in Margin Call/Lehman Brothers.)
The MF case has an added interesting element of apparent mixing the firm's clients' money with the firm's risky investments of it's own funds.
11-3-11NYTimes--Federal Inquiry of MF Global Escalates
- Federal Inquiry of MF Global Escalates - NYTimes.com
Multiple federal agencies are examining whether MF Global diverted customer money to support its own trades.
11-3-11NYTimes--"Corzine Comeback--Big Risks and a Steep Fall"
- In Corzine Comeback, Big Risks and Steep Fall - NYTimes.com
The collapse of MF Global, and the discovery that hundreds of millions of dollars were missing from the firm's customer accounts, have cast a dark cloud over Jon S. Corzine's legacy and reputation.
11-1-11NYTimes--"Corzine Crashes Like It's 2008" Joe Nocera
- Corzine Crashes Like It’s 2008 - NYTimes.com
The former chief of Goldman Sachs was on track to get a $12 million golden parachute for failing at MF Global Holdings. Didn’t the financial industry learn anything?
11-3-11NYTimes EDITORIAL "Corzine's Big Bet"
- Mr. Corzine’s Big Bet on MF Global - NYTimes.com
The bankruptcy filing by the brokerage firm raises some troubling questions about the financial system and its vulnerability.
11-1-11NYTimes--"It's Lonely Without the Goldman Net" Andrew Ross Sorkin
- It's Lonely Without the Goldman Net -- Andrew Ross Sorkin - NYTimes.com
A series of blunders by former senior executives of Goldman Sachs raises questions about whether the firm's secret for success can actually be exported.