Wall Street Lawyer Reviews Financial Crime Scenes, from “Billions” to “Mr. Robot” | Vanity Fair

in my career as a defense attorney i've handled some of new york's biggest white-collar crimes including defending those accused of insider trading and political corruption today vinnie was going to review financial crimes in tv and movies to determine what hollywood gets right and wrong [Music] as you're watching these clips bear in mind that anyone can be a victim of financial crime not some little old lady but also the college educated person who thinks he or she knows what he's doing when it comes to money first up catch me if you can in this scene young leo playing frank abnegail is forging checks real soon please get in touch with joanna carlton from the 10th grade tell her i'm sorry that i could not take her to the junior prom love your son frank so a lot of fun facts here about frank abagnale in 1967 he was able to pass the louisiana bar exam without ever having gone to law school and there's so much about this guy ultimately he became an fbi informant and now he runs a consulting company in this scene he is creating a fake chat and he does that by using the actual logo by putting it in a tub and and pasting it onto this piece of paper today you could do all of this in 15 minutes didn't have to go through the whole rigmarole that he went through back during the movie back in those days so it's a lot easier today but of course very few people use checks and therefore it makes it these checks are scrutinized more when they're actually put into a bank hello how are you so bank tellers or people that work at check cashing places are trained to look out for imperfections in a check check fraud is is actually monitored by the banks so check hiding is the crime they'll see a check they'll see something off and they will actually call the authorities from there while they're processing these checks next up terminator 2.

In this scene you see a young john connor using an atari laptop machine to steal money from an antenna will you hurry up this is taking too long go baby go baby go baby all right pin number nine computers atms they've gotten more sophisticated they're a lot more protection so some of these things will shut down and not allow an opportunity to use and get a multiple numbers wrong so in essence is this accurate from today's standards not really i mean this was something that back then years ago that you could do which was try to randomize numbers to figure out the pin but today it's unlikely that something like this would work who'd you learn this stuff from anyway from my mom my real mom i mean um withdrawal three zero zero bucks come on baby come on come on come on yes hey it worked all right easy money so young john connor has an accomplice with him so that kid who's with him telling him to hurry up clearly is somebody that in new york would be called acting concert with him or at the federal level would be called a co-conspirator because they work together to get illegal means accomplished in this case stealing money come on let's go spend some money so in 1991 when james cameron released this movie it would have been a lot more difficult to capture john connor but in 2020 it's going to be pretty easy for the cops and the banks to chase somebody because they'll have cameras inside and cameras outside and they can go after these people retracing their steps next up mr robot in this scene the main character has found a way to transfer money from a chinese hacker group back into the accounts of the people who originally had their money stolen i don't cut what's going on all of the money white rose and her brownies have been stealing for decades just went back to the people so in the scene you see the main character in essence acting like a robin hood and taking money from the thieves or the rich and giving it back to the poor or in this case the ones who were defrauded it's a great concept morally and in reality something like this could happen but you can't do what she's trying to do no individual can do what she's trying to do because it does involve fraud over the wires and the us government likes to charge everyone with waterfront we found a way to evenly disperse anonymously into everyone's wallets you won't got this much yeah and due to ecorp's insistence that equine remain independent from the us dollar it is completely impossible for them to reverse the transactions so you're actually viewing the scene in essence hacking right which is ultimately just stealing now it is a crime ultimately if this actually ever happened the us government would be in a tough position because do they punish the person who is actually making people whole it's a tough one i'm not sure which way they would go this is illegal this is stealing after what the dark army did to you [ __ ] after what they did to everyone you really want to start defending that this isn't what justice is supposed to look like we have laws for a reason and they were so powerful they wrote the laws to benefit themselves they got away with everything because they banked on us so let me add this in terms of how easy it is for the united states government to prosecute someone who's involved in bitcoin fraud it's not you know why because the u.s government doesn't understand this space they are really operating in the dark and making guesses and trying to use their knowledge of traditional wire fraud and try to apply it here but it doesn't really work so you can expect to see a lot of change in the laws and the government try to catch up over the next few years next up wolf of wall street in this scene you're going to be watching dicaprio teach his underlings how to run a pump and dub scheme involving penny stocks first we pitch them disney a t ibm blue chip stocks exclusively companies these people know once we've suckered them in we unload the dog [ __ ] the pink sheets the penny stocks where we make the money 50 commission baby in the scene belfort is teaching his his underlings how to do a classic pump and dump scheme by ultimately selling penny stocks these brokers gonna get 50 commission this was very profitable until the fbi shut this down in a pump and duck scheme a brokerage house would buy large quantities of some very cheap stock of penny stock and hold it a bunch of it for themselves and then designate somebody to move these stocks and what they do is that they pitch this to clients by paying the brokers a high commission to motivate them to move it once the demand peaks the rat hold dumpers dump their stock on the open market at the high price and make a killing this causes a free fall in the stock prices as they sell it's technically not illegal to sell an over-the-counter stock like they were doing and even the commission amount is not illegal but no one's gonna buy something if they know the broker's got a 50 commission that's a huge red flag so what's illegal is not being honest and open about the actual price and the fact that there is a nominee there to dump the stock once it hits a certain price you finally found a broker on wall street that you can trust sorry uh i i appreciate the call i really have to give this some thought and uh talk to my wife about it um can i call you back they don't know right they gotta think about it they gotta talk to the [ __ ] wives of the [ __ ] tooth fairy point it doesn't matter what the [ __ ] they say the only real objection that they have is that they don't trust you guys so when leonardo dicaprio says you finally found a broker on wall street you can trust and consistently make you money but you watch him and you see what he's doing and he's mocking the person on the other line this is actually what happened the movie is very real jordan ended up pleading guilty to stock fraud manipulation and his whole company was shut down so what you're seeing here is really how these people in these rooms these boiler rooms and that was another movie similar concept in these boiler rooms behave next up identity theft in this scene melissa mccarthy a con artist albeit a funny one is making a cold call to steal someone's identity from the fraud protection department of identiful credit monitoring service we're calling today because unfortunately it appears that someone has attempted to steal your identity are you kidding me this is a type of identity theft there's many different types this is one and in the movie it's funny because it's melissa mccarthy but this is actually realistic stuff like this happens stuff like this happens when people call elderly people call immigrants or send them emails like this and then they answer their emails and end up giving up their personal information including social security numbers that leads to people opening up credit cards in their names and losing lots and lots of money are you kidding me gosh i wish i were we did catch this in time however but i do suggest you taking advantage of our free total protection plan which safeguards your credit rating against theft and fraud yes please if it's free absolutely just terrific i went for this plan myself so one of the things that melissa mccarthy does in this movie or the writers have done is actually take something that these swindlers do quite well which is personalizing it so they will say melissa mccarthy says to jason basement i've taken this myself and does it in this sweet voice this is a move designed to build trust build rapport and create a false sense of empathy oh man this guy you know she knows what i've gone through so of course i'm going to trust her of course i want to give her my social security number mr patterson i'm going to need to verify some information from you i'm going to need your full name date of birth and social security number please sure here comes things like date of birth social security number even a cell phone number is often enough to get information so if somebody has your cell phone number and has your name and if they have access to a database they can then figure out a way to get other information like your date of birth like your social security number even if they don't get that from you on the phone so if somebody says i'm not comfortable giving you my social security number no no worries just give us your date of birth kind of feel like you've given something okay okay that's safe you know and boom they can get you what can i get for you i'm gonna have a melon ball and uh and some tequila and let's start a tap look in reality a swindler as sophisticated as mccarthy is is probably not going to use that money at a bar we'll probably use that money to go to a best buy a home depot and buy different things and keep using that card until somebody figures it out and then they move on to the next card we had a client who went on a three-state or four-state spending spree but he did it in small amounts you know at foot locker here a foot locker in the bronx a foot locker in westchester foot locker in connecticut a foot locker in massachusetts and ultimately it took over a year and about 30 people were swindled and a total of 250 000 and this was a state prosecution out of new york and westchester county and not a federal prosecution because the feds weren't interested because the amounts weren't large enough for their interest next up billions in this scene of billions you will see bobby axelrod one of the main characters get inside information about the father of his nemesis but he's not interested in the inside information to so much make money as to destroy his nemesis i got word from the boys that spark knives chuck road senior has taken a significant stake in a company that's going public ice juice no [ __ ] and insofar as you hate the rhodes family almost as much as i do that could be pleasant be fun if you could find a way to lob a turd in the punch bowl yeah real fun in this scene you see bobby axelrod get inside information about the activities of the father of his nemesis the united states attorney in the show the united states attorney played by paul giamatti has a very rich father and so bobby wants to destroy the us attorney and he can do that by hurting the father so he gets inside information about what the father is going to do but what he does or he attempts to do could never happen in real life i make sure to take a sizeable allocation so you'd have cover yeah take the free money up front throw it in the reverse and that short every tick on the way down an ipo is an initial public offering and so for example when most recent years companies like uber went public that means it went from being a closed company with private owners to allowing the general public to buy stocks and benefit so in this scene bobby axelrod is taking what they call it calls a sizable allocation then he plans to dump that allocation all at once on the market while the ipo is hot this scene is ludicrous because in reality no one would be able to get that kind of information on a company going public and there are safeguards in place to prevent a person doing what he intends or is trying to do in this in this scene it's great theater for hollywood but just not at all realistic next up office space ron livingston's character is describing his plan to steal money from his company through a cyber scheme all right so when the subroutine compounds the interest right it uses all these extra decimal places that just get rounded off so we simplified the whole thing and we just round them all down and just drop the remainder into an account that we opened so this is a case of literally transferring funds from the from the bankers accounts into his own i mean this is just theft um this same scheme was used by richard pryor's character in superman 3 and in the movie hackers this was actually a real thing and this was a problem with users of excel that eventually later on people figured out or microsoft figured out how to fix this problem so you're stealing uh no no you don't understand it's uh it's very complicated it's uh it's it's aggregate so i'm talking about fractions of a penny here and uh over time they add up to a lot oh okay so in the scene it's it's very funny because his girlfriend figures it out right away and he's caught he thinks it's not stealing because all he's doing is taking fractions and pennies but once you start doing it in millions of transactions it leads to millions of dollars of losses then you're gonna bite off more than you can chew oh okay you're gonna make a lot of money right yeah right it's not yours uh well it becomes ours how is that not stealing so in reality if you're caught doing something like this and you're the amount you steal exceeds a couple million dollars you could be looking at significant jail time from at least 10 years and up last step arbitrage in this scene what you're gonna see is the unraveling of a ponzi scheme dad are you listening to me okay those trades are in the special book they don't get audited here on the same balance sheet wait but look at the sheet there's a 400 million dollar hole here i mean that can't be right in the scene you see richard gere's daughter catching him and pointing out a huge discrepancy half of the funds are missing he's like oh that's ridiculous i'll look into it he tells her tries to push her off and at the same time you see a detective coming into the workplace the point is that it's unlikely a detective is going to be the one investigating this why because it's not the state it's going to be the feds that come in for 400 million dollars you bet the feds are going to be interested in something like this well peter listen i'm looking at some statements right now how much did you book last quarter why what uh what do you care peter i'm really just asking you all right uh 35.

35 million for your whole group yes 35 million for my entire group you sure it wasn't 68. what 35 million isn't a big enough number for you so what you're seeing in this scene is somewhat actually realistic because what's happened is that the fraud is being perpetrated with the knowledge or with the assistance of somebody who controls the numbers so the daughter richard gear's daughter figures out that a number was dramatically misrepresented she calls a guy who only says he made 35 million but the number says something in excess of 60 million so she catches him and realizes now that there was internal fraud what are you doing my office uh hello can you explain this explain what old hill all the numbers you falsified what this means in reality is that at these companies that are not publicly traded where you have external audits mandated by sec regulations here you have a essence what's a fraud what's a conspiracy between multiple people at the same company to cook the books to attract more investors to make up for the losses that that have been occurred all the numbers you falsified you don't know what you're saying get out of my way you're hurting my arm can't you just leave it alone you're fired ben you can't fire me oh i just did who do you think asked me to make those changes you tell me in this clip you see the daughter who obviously is in a position of power in this company fire the employee but then the employee tells her who do you think i was covering for meaning her dad well in reality that employee would probably not be fired initially but would be working with the father to try to cover this up he is your classic co-conspirator who worked with the person to make the fraudulent entries to give the false prospectuses which they send out to investors i hope you'll take away from this that hollywood sometimes has a right uh which sometimes has it wrong and what they've done and this is the biggest sin of hollywood is that there's no gray area they portray people he's either completely evil or completely good the world just doesn't work that way

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