The Pop History Dig

“Gekko Nixes Greed”
FBI Ad: 2012

1987: This fake issue of Fortune magazine featuring Gordon Gekko on the cover as “The King of Wall Street” was used as a prop in the film “Wall Street.”
1987: This fake issue of Fortune magazine featuring Gordon Gekko on the cover as “The King of Wall Street” was used as a prop in the film “Wall Street.”
     Gordon Gekko, the fictional Wall Street character who Michael Douglas made famous with his “greed is good” speech in 1987′s Wall Street, is now working for the FBI.

     Gekko, or rather Douglas, is appearing in a public service announcement (PSA) for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation that began airing in February 2012 to help fight securities fraud and insider trading on Wall Street.  Douglas, who brought believable form and swagger to Gekko with his 1987 “best actor” performance, appears in the PSA as himself, making clear that Gekko was a fictional character, but that the wheeling and dealing he did in the film were crimes.

     “I played a greedy corporate executive who cheated to profit while innocent investors lost their savings,” Douglas says in the ad, which also uses a clip of the Gekko greed speech at its beginning.  “The movie was fiction, but the problem is real,” says Douglas.  “Our economy is increasingly dependent on the success and integrity of the financial markets.  If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.”  As the PSA cuts to a screen with the FBI logo, Douglas continues speaking off camera:  “For more information on how you can help identify securities fraud, or to report insider training, contact your local FBI office.  Or submit a tip online at www.fbi.gov.”

2012: Michael Douglas appearing in FBI’s public service announcement.  Click on image to view on FBI site.
2012: Michael Douglas appearing in FBI’s public service announcement. Click on image to view on FBI site.
     Reportedly, Douglas was quite willing to do the one-minute spot for the FBI, which was shot in November 2011.  In fact, for some years after the Wall Street film had appeared, Douglas and the film’s producer, Oliver Stone, had been flabbergasted and frustrated by the reaction of some film goers who expressed admiration for the rapacious Gekko character – as some had even told Douglas they entered business or began Wall Street careers inspired by Gekko.  That is, they viewed Gekko as their model, and planned to emulate his values.  Yet the whole point of the Wall Street film had been to show how repugnant Gekko and his values were; that the “greed-is-good” mindset and behaviors such as asset stripping,  insider trading, defrauding investors, wrecking companies, and all the rest, were not to be emulated.  Rather, these were the very worst and most reckless kinds of business and investment activities – the kind, in fact, that helped bring America to its 2008 financial crisis.  One recent book at least, written by former Goldman Sachs trader, Anthony Scaramucci, tries to dispel some of this errant Gekko legacy and is titled, Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How To Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul.

Michael Douglas, inhabiting the character of the ruthless  Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film “Wall Street.”
Michael Douglas, inhabiting the character of the ruthless Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film “Wall Street.”
     FBI Special Agent David Chaves supervises one of the FBI’s securities and commodities fraud units in New York that has been involved in an insider-trading initiative in which they teamed up with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the sources of inside tips and those profiting from them.  A five-year enforcement effort has resulted in criminal charges against more than 60 people.  But Chaves and his unit thought even more could be done.  And that’s when they went to Michael Douglas.  “We thought one of the most revered actors of our time would be a great voice for combating crime on Wall Street,” Chaves explained to Bloomberg/ Business Week.  They were also looking to raise the Bureau’s visibility.  “It’s important for us to have the F.B.I. brand out on Wall Street,” Chaves told the New York Times.  “The more people out there aware of the problem, the more opportunities we have to get tips,” said Richard T. Jacobs, another supervisory special agent at the F.B.I.

Anthony Scaramucci’s 2010 book, “Goodbye Gordon Gekko.”
Anthony Scaramucci’s 2010 book, “Goodbye Gordon Gekko.”
     Meanwhile, the PSA with “Mr Gekko” – which has aired on CNBC and Bloomberg Television – will be broadcast on other national cable television channels, especially those covering business news.  FBI spokesman Bill Carter said the PSA would be distributed to 15 cities — Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and New Haven, Connecticut — where there has been a proliferation of fraud cases or evidence of potential trouble.

     But the FBI-Douglas union in the current PSA campaign is also interesting as another example of the Washington-Hollywood axis at work, and how celebrity and celluloid characters are sometimes brought to bear on real world problems.

     For a longer story at this website on the history of the 1987 Wall Street film, the Gordon Gekko character, the film’s storyline,  film photos and trailer, as well as reactions to the film and other information, see “Wall Street’s Gekko, 1987-2010.”  Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle


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Date Posted:  29 February 2012
Last Update:  29 February 2012
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Gekko Nixes Greed, FBI Ad: 2012,”
PopHistoryDig.com, February 29, 2012.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, “FBI Announces Public Service Announcement by Michael Douglas on Securities Fraud and Insider Trading,” New York, February 27, 2012.

FBI — Financial Fraud Public Service Announcement (video), February 2012.

Kevin Johnson, “Michael Douglas, aka Gordon Gekko, Helps FBI Fight Fraud, USA Today,February 27, 2012.

Patricia Hurtado, “Douglas’s Gordon Gekko Is FBI’s Latest Insider-Trading Crusader,” Bloomberg Business Week, Tuesday, February 28, 2012.

“New Role For Michael Douglas…,” CBS This Morning, February 28, 2012

Ben Protess and Azam Ahmed, “Michael Douglas Tackles Greed for F.B.I.,” Deal Book, New York Times, February 27, 2012.




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