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Monday, December 30, 2013

"The Wolf of Wall Street": Has Anything Changed?

Yesterday, I went to see Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," and I suppose that I was not really prepared for what awaited me. I thought that Leonardo DiCaprio gave a marvelous performance, and the film had much of the flavor of Scorsese's 1990 masterpiece, "Good Fellahs." Also, I didn't fall asleep once during the three hours that I sat in the theater, perhaps also owing to the five cups of coffee I had before watching the film. But now, after reading several reviews of this flick, I find myself asking, "Why?"

I've done a lot of different things over the course of my lifetime, and no small part of it has revolved around the securities industry: as an investor, market maker and criminal investigator. Yes, I suppose I know more than I care to know, and as I near my 60th birthday, I wonder if anything has gotten better over the years in this field. Sure, it's computerized and faster, and much more information is available online to those wishing to make the effort to learn about the companies whose shares they buy, but is it any cleaner?

"The Wolf of Wall Street" depicts the evolution of a small boiler room operation, pushing penny stocks listed on the pink sheets during the 1990s, into an epicenter of debauchery. No, it's no longer done in this ostentatious fashion, but small investors continue to get eaten alive, and today it's with the connivance of the federal government.

I am not going to trouble you again with another denunciation of the federal government's cancellation of the Uptick Rule, which was intended to prevent share price manipulation (see:, and which has allowed hedge funds to prey upon the public. Instead, allow me to just say that all of the abuses of the 1920s remain alive and well, and I have yet to witness a response from the SEC, FINRA or the exchanges themselves concerning trading irregularities that I have reported.

So, I watched "The Wolf of Wall Street" and its voyeuristic depiction of the abuse of sex and drugs in the 1990s by persons in the financial industry, and I ask myself who in Washington has the courage to denounce the depravity of today's financial markets, which, perpetrated by means of computer algorithms without the sex and drugs, flies under the radar.

In fact, the campaign contributions continue, and nobody gives a damn.

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