Other People’s Money

“Other People’s Money” by Justin Cartwright (Bloomsbury, 2011) is to the novel what the wonderful “Margin Call” is to film – a fictionalized but convincing account of high finance and the crisis of 2008. In this case, the central characters are the old money family owners of a private London investment bank which has incurred huge losses on an in house hedge fund. They try to cook the books through fraudulent additions to the capital base from various family and charitable trust, while arranging a secret sale to a Wall Street bank. 

Cartwright only sketches the financial shenanigans, but deftly describes what he calls “the traditional arrogance and contempt of the high altitude financial classses for ordinary people” (p.226)

“The family, for all their taste and sophistication, never speak to their souls. They have taste, but cannot make art. They have style, but they don’t have love. They have wealth, but wealth has isolated them.” (p.222)

A convincing account of the personality type behind the financial debacle, and a great holiday read.

2 comments

  • Thank you for the recommendation. I will definitely take a closer look at “Other People’s Money”…the title, itself, says a lot, doesn’t it? However, my question for you is whether the movie ‘Margin Call’ could really be called ‘wonderful’. The New York Times seems to agree with you. They described the film as “an extraordinary feat of filmmaking” in an October 20th, 2011 article entitled “Number Crunching at the Apocalypse” by A.O. Scott . However, despite the fact that the film was labelled by its makers as a thriller, “Margin Call” wasn’t all that ‘thrilling’, in my opinion. Yes, it is a quality film – with substance – in comparison to what is usually shown in theaters today. It also had a few good moments – especially for those viewers who had worked in the financial industry at the time of the crisis and could identify with the portrayed people, situations and dialogues. However, I felt that the shock, the drama and the goose bumps of 2008 were missing. Perhaps, the reality was just too hair-raising to recreate on film? Overall, I would describe the film as a ‘lacklustre’ performance. Does anyone agree with me?

  • Margin Call indeed did not provide great insights into the mechanics of the financial crisis – and the title is a misnomer – but I found it to be a much more convincing portrait of the culture of a Wall Street bank than I have seen in any other contemporary film. The characters, especially those played by Spacey and Irons, rang true for me.

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