Oliver Stone on Wall Street, Gordon Gekko, and Hugo Chávez
Oliver Stone talks about his two latest films, “South of the Border” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
(Page 4 of 5)
If Goldman Sachs and the others were hedge fund investors solely, let them do what they want to do, take their winning risks or losses. But they shouldn’t be allowed to be a federally-insured commercial bank that puts other peoples’ assets at risk that the government is then called upon to rescue if they get in trouble.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
We need good banks like in the old days. A bank was supposed to make money with a public license. They would and make money on the difference between the interest depositors were paid and lenders were charged. It was a reasonable deal. Wall Street was a place you went to market stocks and bonds and build infrastructure.
There were banks that behaved well during this whole crisis, such as the Royal Bank of Canada. They were the only bank that let us shoot our film on their premises. They had nothing to hide.
Our financial system went awry when Sandy Weill – my father’s last employer, by the way – came along and built Citigroup into a financial supermarket that linked everything from traditional banking to securities trading to credit card debt and insurance premiums under one umbrella. Financial corporations grew into huge megaliths between 1970 and 2008. And, in my experience, the bigger an institution gets, the more likely it is to fail and subvert the business that it is in.
Just as Wal-Mart destroyed so many small businesses, so the concept of the financial supermarket destroyed sound banking.
"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"
Gardels: When did you decide to make this sequel, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”?
Stone: We decided to make this sequel as a bookend to the first “Wall Street” in the wake of the crash. Twenty plus years after the first film, we were experiencing the end result of what started in 1987: the concept of Wall Street profiting for itself, of investment houses trading to increase their own profits instead of the profits of their clients.
We did quite a bit of research for the film, including talking to young bankers working on Wall Street for only two or three years. We were allowed to shoot scenes for the first time at the Federal Reserve Board.
We talked to people who had been in the key meetings in the middle of September 2008 when the crash started and when it was decided to bail out the banks.
Gardels: Did you learn anything new that you didn’t know before about Wall Street?
Stone: The extensive computerization of trading was totally new to me. In the old days, you believed in a stock and traded on it. Now, massive supercomputers are programmed to arbitrage minute shifts in value over five second intervals in which thousands of stocks are traded back and forth. You can churn a nice profit if you make a third of a cent on 15,000 trades a day.
I also was able to understand how companies like Goldman Sachs make money by trading against themselves.
Elliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, sat down with us in early 2009, some eight months before it was news, and told us to look at the dealings between Goldman Sachs and AIG. “That,” he said, “is an evil empire.”