Michael Douglas PSA to Fight Corrupt Wall Street: Greed is Not Good


In the martini lunch-fueled, fast-talking, tailored suit-wearing world of Wall Street, Gordon Gekko is a cult hero. Michael Douglas, who played the character, though, never intended Gekko to be the reason people flocked to the Street in droves. Now, in a special public service announcement for the FBI, Douglas pushes this point further in lashing out against the “greed is good” mentality that has consumed the financial sector.

While some may see the PSA as a good thing, I see it as pointless. I think it is a waste of time that furthers the false beliefs that have been perpetuated by people who think school shootings have to do with movies and teenagers were acting out in the 90s based on what they saw on Beavis and Butthead.

Wall Street is the epitome of greed in the eyes of the average American. The movie of the same name didn’t really do anything besides further this belief. Gekko saying “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” did not have then the connotation that it has taken on today.

He meant it in the sense of streamlining companies and selling them at a profit in the venture capital arm of his firm similar to what Bain Capital does; only Bain Capital is not a criminal organization and its founder — Mitt Romney — will not end up in prison.

In an interview with the Fox Movie Channel, Michael Douglas said he was surprised that people “involved on Wall Street, who were students in business school” started working in finance because of Gordon Gekko, despite him being the villain.

ABC News reported that securities and fraud cases have risen 52% since 2008, with the FBI currently tallying 1,800 pending cases. Douglas has convinced himself that he has something to do with this phenomenon.

“A lot of those business school students are the leaders of these investment banks, hedge funds now where we’re seeing all this incredible corruption,” Douglas went on to say.

To help combat the wide-ranging corruption on Wall Street, Douglas’ PSA was announced by the FBI’s New York field office earlier this week, it has caused a stir in both the financial and enforcement communities. In it, Douglas says “The movie was fiction, but the problem is real …. Our economy is increasingly dependent on the success and integrity of the financial markets. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

That the FBI enlisted the help of the guy who played the role model of many of these Wall Street types — some of whom I worked alongside with and saw how ruthless they were — is a testament to how desperate they are to weed out corruption in the financial markets.

I would love to have been at that meeting of the minds:

FBI guy A: Fraud is seemingly at an all time high! Public perception is against the markets! I know, let’s have Gordon Gekko say greed isn’t good!

FBI guy B: Brilliant!

While it’s good that Douglas has gone as far as he has in this PSA to clarify that Gekko was indeed the villain, it will do little to address the issue of fraud in the financial industry. While greed can be bad motivation, it can also be good. Gekko also said “greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

Greed motivates, inspires and carries people through the day. It also leads to many other things like crime and war. When harnessed by the right person, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good;” just not when that person is supposedly inspired by Gordon Gekko.

Photo Credit: Paul Sparkes

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Ryan Gorman

Ryan's work has been featured in the NY Daily News, Gothamist and the Wall Street Letter. His work has been cited by both the Colbert Report and Time Magazine's website. Ryan worked on Wall Street for five years before returning to school to finish a degree in journalism at St. John's University.

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