Title: Business Ethics
Production companies: Fisher Park Media, Innis Lake Entertainment
Directed by: Nick Wernham and Bernard E. James.
Timing: 95 minutes
Release date: October 2020
Reviewer: Olutayo Irantiola
Dishonesty, Lies, Cheating. You will never get away with them, they will always come back to haunt you and you will pay the price.
– Professor Wrightway
The movie is about a young man, Mr. Zachery Craston, who was desperate to make a fortune through any means. Despite, the warning of his professor in the business school, Professor Wrightway, that any form of dishonesty, lies, and cheating will be paid for dearly. This means that despite the training on ethics, it is left for each student to take it to heart and practice it at a later date when they have the opportunity.
He worked with his mentor, Mr. Murk, he learnt the various ways of running a finance house. Unfortunately, his boss was arrested for fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, bribery, and tax evasion. After investing seven years at Murk Wealth Management and rising steadily through the ranks to become a Senior Investment Manager, he could not get a job because of his former employer. Other employers shun him like a bad disease. The implication of this is that as employees are charged to be brand ambassadors for the organization where they work, so also must employers strive to create an organization that would not destroy the credibility of their workforce. Although many employers pretend as if they do not get feedback on the activities of their companies from various quarters, they should make changes so that it does not negatively affect the future of their workforce.
Then, as a young sharp guy, with his mindset of making it at all costs, he started his own business. He built his social capital by getting involved in some activities, such as golfing and playing basketball. These activities were not a visible part of his lifestyle as an employee, but with entrepreneurship, he had to warm up to those whom he wants to attract people with deep pockets- investors, and potential partners amongst others. The journey to entrepreneurship comes with its requirements which an aspiring person must be willing to undertake.
However, the first set of people he met was afraid of investing in his hedge funds and he made a profound statement, it is hard to find clients when you don’t have a track record and it’s difficult to get a track record without clients. It is really the truth, but if he had got an outstanding track record, he could have gotten his first set of clients from the defunct business of his boss; he could have gotten it from his schoolmates, amongst others. One should learn to build relationships that stand out, as it could be one of the easiest ways to start up.
Eventually, he got a willing investor, Mr. Hardcastle, who made his wealth from shit. He told Craston that he did not care about ethics. In order to win his heart, Craston told him that the hedge fund would be used for weapons, gambling, pornography, and pollution! Their thoughts and language got aligned. One statement by Mr. Hardcastle that got me thinking is, there is no surer sign of a great business than having people trying to kill you! Well, it is usually said by motivational speakers, Craston has attracted someone with a dubious past just like he had always thought and he was mentored, and he was greater than Mr. Hardcastle.
With the first client on board with a million bucks, he made some good investments, then he continued a Ponzi scheme like his old boss. He read his books and let studied Charles Ponzi who instigated one of the most famous financial frauds in history. Profiting at his client’s expense, he must have seemed great, but as expected, he was arrested, disgraced, and put in handcuffs. A Ponzi Scheme is a classic fraud. Its essence is deception, and the perpetrator deliberately overstates the value of assets held in client accounts, thereby creating a false impression of investment success. As a Nigerian, I can relate to this very well because, within the last decade, there were Ponzi schemes such as Yuan Dong Ponzi, Galaxy Transport Ponzi, Famzhi Interbiz, Cowlane Ponzi, Dureil Ponzi, and the Mavrodi Mundial Movement popularly called MMM. It is expedient for people to be wise when making investment decisions so that they don’t keep running into swindlers.
His mother too was a recipient of the evil being perpetrated by her son, she was denied a loan by her banker of 34 years because of her son’s involvement in hedge funds. As said by Yoruba bi ará ilé ẹni ba njẹ kòkòrò búburú ti a ò sọ fun, hẹ̀rẹ̀-huru rẹ kò ní jẹ ki a sùn meaning if your neighbour is consuming something danger during the day and you do not warm him, you will partake of the discomfort at night. The mother either did not understand the nature of her son’s business or urged him to desist from this line of business. She eventually died a lonely woman.
Having gone into the Ponzi business, he built a team and acquired a successful image. He engaged Wilfred, a lawyer; Martin Abacus, an excellent accountant and business school legend, and Veronica. He started living a bloated life by becoming a philanthropist and angel investor amongst others. Within a short while, the mayor of the city recognized him; he was awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater and he was regarded as an Investment Superman who got a series of speaking opportunities. Equally, he instituted the Craston Heart Centre. He noted that the only reward he requires is the knowledge that, with his donation, he has added to human happiness. All these led him to win the heart of an old prospect, Jasper.
They ran a business with an investment strategy that no one understands- derivatives, options, futures, swaps, and trades. They developed pages of damn transactions that anyone nosy to investigate will be buried in an avalanche of details. A Ponzi scheme can only survive as long as it pays off any investors who request their money back and for this reason, a well-run scheme will always aim to ensure sufficient inflows of new money to cover any outflows. They keep fabricating investment returns proved to be an irresistible hook.
Luckily for Zachery, he bought Murk’s old estate, which includes his luxurious homestead and a sprawling field of land that also includes a former farm and a spacious wooded area.
As typical of a man who would want to justify his misdeeds, he engaged the faculty at his business school who told him that the Professor of Ethics, Professor Wrightway had left the system. They described him as old-fashioned. He was glad to hear what he desired that today’s world is so dynamic, so sophisticated, who knows what’s right, what’s wrong anymore? Lines are blurred, judgment is a matter of perspective.
As assumed, his pack of cards fell when Mr. Hardcastle wanted to divest and he could not provide the $20 million invested in the business. Hardcastle made him know he did not makeup a fortune today by tolerating disappointment and his fund is disappointing me. He went into some series of crimes to cover up his fraudulent practices; he kept taking steps to cover up his tracks. He killed Martin, one of his allies, as he did not want him to reveal their dirty dealings and evaded tax payment. However, some Swiss bankers were not convinced about the acclaimed success of his brand.
This leaves Zachery desperate for funds. He learns of some savings bonds kept in a safe deposit box for him in a bank on the island of St. Euripides, and he enlists the little old lady with the key to the deposit box, Mrs. Finnigan, to go with him. They meet up with an old friend, Sartori, who flirtatiously tries to get Mrs. Finnigan to go to brunch with him, but he’s disappointed when she’s not taken by his sexual advances, and when his much younger wife flirts with Zachery. Mrs. Finnigan gets the savings bonds out of the box, giving them to Zachery, but a police detective arrests Zachery, insisting he’s involved in some kind of international fraud.
Eventually, frustration did set in and he was about to kill himself before he got wind of some inflow from his investment in the manufacturing of a medical device. He was excited, but he was shot. Was it worth it after all?
I would like to end the review with the words of Martin Abacus, “Being honest to yourself is the foundation of everything and being honest with other people too”.This is the hallmark of ethics and also an unblemished record across all areas of human engagement. Never, ever break the law!
ENjoy the thriller-