Michael Douglas to bankers: Stop imitating me

The "Wall Street" star is the perfect pitchman against insider trading VIDEO

Topics: Going Viral, Occupy Wall Street,

Michael Douglas to bankers: Stop imitating meMichael Douglas(Credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok)

Greed, for lack of a better word, is apparently no longer good.

A deadpan new PSA for the FBI replays an iconic, oft-quoted ’80s movie scene before trotting out none other than Michael Douglas himself to rail against it. “In the movie ‘Wall Street,’ I play Gordon Gekko, a greedy corporate executive who cheated to profit while innocent investors lost their savings,” he says. “The movie was fiction, but the problem is real.”

Douglas goes on to explain that “Our economy is increasingly dependent on the success and the integrity of the financial markets,” and, “If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is,” before directing the viewer to contact the FBI for information on securities fraud.

Speaking in BusinessWeek this week, FBI Special Agent David Chaves revealed that the spot grew out of the FBI’s desire to call attention to their Martha Stewart-sounding “Perfect Hedge” initiative, and to make clear that they still wear the pants, enforcement-wise. “At one point it was reported that the SEC was arresting people,” Chaves said. “That’s when I took the position that we need to be clear on what’s going on.” And who could the FBI recruit to hammer home the message? “I thought there was only one person to do it,” said Chaves: the guy who played ultimate insider douchebag himself.

It’s a noble effort — and a well-timed attempt at public relations — in a recessionary year, one in which the words “Wall Street” have become synonymous with “occupy.” It’s a chance for the U.S. government to look like the good guys, as opposed to just those corporate butt-kissers. But it’s also amusing to see an actor explain that one of his old movies is in fact fiction. I’d like to see Al Pacino working for the Drug Enforcement Authority, explaining that he isn’t a Cuban coke lord. Or Harrison Ford saying that he isn’t really a replicant – OR IS HE?

Douglas, for his part, says the subtleties of the original film seem to have been lost on the cineastes of the financial world. The Times reports that “Mr. Douglas would receive high-fives and handshakes from real-life traders and bankers when he walked the streets of Manhattan.” And now Douglas would like to remind them that just like their hero, they can go to jail.


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

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