Arbitrage, the movie
Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 7:59AM
David Jewell in Owning Class

Arbitrage the film, written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki, is making the rounds in theaters currently. It tells the story of one radically successful, billionaire hedge fund trader played by Richard Gere. Just turning sixty, he’s having a bad week—with his firm, his family and his mistress.

The story illustrates a couple of overlooked business competencies. (If you are unfamiliar with “competencies,” they are those behaviors that are often used in corporate hiring and management development, like initiative, teamwork, problem solving, and customer focus.) 

Gere plays Robert Miller, who started a wildly successful hedge fund, but made a fateful bet on Russian copper before the 2008 economic collapse. Now he can’t get his money out of Russia, and needs to sell his hedge fund to a banker to extricate himself from debt. 

Jarecki writes from his experience growing up with a father who was a Wall Street trader. The composite character that is Robert Miller illustrates a couple of competencies that never make it onto the approved list—charm and treachery

Gere’s Robert Miller charms everyone in his path to win their sympathy. But look out when your back is turned... Stay skeptical of the charm; alert for treachery lest you are blindsided and cheated.

Robert Miller, the trader, isn’t an evil man; he does a lot of good for those he touches, as long as he doesn’t feel cornered. When threatened, he loses his moral compass.

Treachery masked by charm is an old story. Jarecki has given it a contemporary face. It’s a film worth seeing and discussing.

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