In the Showtime series Billions, Damian Lewis’ portrayal of the sinister Bobby Axelrod is unlike any other on television. As proficient in the stock market as he is with pop culture references, he is an excellent hedge fund manager. Although he is notorious for using illegal insider information to increase Axe Capital’s profits, his financial expertise is virtually unparalleled.
The plot of Billions is inspired on real-world events that play a vital influence in New York City. Indeed, individuals such as Bobby Axelrod at hedge firms and Chuck Rhoades at the district attorney’s office pursue those responsible for financial crimes (Paul Giamatti).
There may not be a clear parallel to Bobby Axelrod in the real world, but there are a number of important persons who hold positions that are eerily similar, right down to their unfathomably lavish lifestyles and unusual trading strategies.
Steven A. Ross, a real-life billionaire and hedge fund manager, certainly provided as inspiration for the creators of Billions.
Cohen when he was constructing Bobby Axelrod, particularly in the first few seasons of Billions when Axelrod was engaged in a furious cat-and-mouse battle with Southern District U.S. Attorney General Chuck Rhoades.
Both Cohen and Axe followed identical “coming-of-billionaire” tales, beginning in middle-class New York and ending with inconceivable wealth as a result of their ability to sit and trade expertly. Cohen founded S.A.C. Capital in 1992 with a huge bonus check from his former firm and his personal $10,000,000 and grew it to handle over $12 billion in assets.
Cohen, like Bobby, was completely unrelenting in his pursuit of wealth, even after accumulating billions. There was no power button present. Mathew Martoma, one of Cohen’s best traders, was charged with and convicted of insider trading in 2013. Two days after federal prosecutors announced a five-count criminal charge against S.A.C. Capital Advisors, Cohen threw a lavish party at his East Hampton, New York, home.
In contrast, Cohen was excluded from competition by the SEC (SEC). In November 2013, the SEC made a settlement offer to Cohen that was very identical to the one Chuck makes to Bobby in the second season of Billions. Bobby was instructed to turn Axe Capital into a “home office” after agreeing to pay $1 billion in a settlement, which meant he would only manage his own funds. At the conclusion of the series Billions, Bobby shreds up his settlement money.
Cohen did not, however, follow suit. In November 2013, S.A.C. Capital Advisors pled guilty to all charges, paid a $1.2 billion settlement, and transformed the fund into a home office. Cohen was prohibited from managing client funds until 2018 as a result of an SEC civil action filed against him in 2016.
Cohen Is Now Establishing a New Investment Vehicle.
This case inspired the creation of almost a billion characters. Chuck Rhoades was influenced by United States Attorney Prett Bharara, who pursued charges against Cohen. Bill “Dollar Bill” Stearns (Kelly AuCoin) is similarly jailed for insider trading involving billions of dollars, but unlike Martoma, who is currently doing time in prison, Bill is free to pursue his daily activities.
Origins of The Television Program
Simply defined, “Billions” is a fictitious journey through the thrilling world of hedge funds. The concept was conceived by Andrew Ross Sorkin, a financial journalist, along with Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the authors of “Rounders.”
If you are familiar with the name Andrew Ross Sorkin, it is because he authored “Too Big to Fail,” the authoritative insider’s account of the 2008 financial crisis.
The novel “Rounders,” co-written by Koppelman and Levien, is set in the underground world of high-stakes poker in New York City and was converted into a film starring Matt Damon.
In 2011, HBO aired a film adaption of Sorkin’s “Too Big to Fail.”
Soon after the success of that film, Sorkin set out to create a fictional television series based in the finance industry, a normally underrepresented field in Hollywood.
Sorkin stated in “Modern Trader” that after viewing the HBO dramatisation of “Too Big to Fail,” he felt “we might try to study the power structure that underlies the financial sector in a smart and elevated manner.” I wanted to create something distinctive in the television scene as the director.
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Conflict Over Authority and Resources
Two distinct protagonists are engaged in a struggle for narrative dominance.
Chuck Rhoades, portrayed by Paul Giamatti, is a protagonist with moral ambiguity. In addition to being a successful Wall Street sheriff, he caters to the requirements of his overbearing wife. With 81 consecutive convictions, he picks and selects which financial behemoths to take on, but he shows no mercy to anyone, not even his closest friends.
At one point, Rhoades’ father urges him to intervene on behalf of a family acquaintance convicted of insider trading. The verdict has terrible consequences for the accused and forces Rhoades to face the full force of his Wall Street influence.
Sorkin told “Modern Trader” that he drew inspiration for Chuck Rhoades from attorneys he encountered while researching white-collar crime as a writer.
Does Anybody Jump to Mind?
After the dot-com disaster, both former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and former New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer investigated numerous white-collar investigations.
The hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod is not, however, based on any actual Wall Street hedge fund managers.
Damien Lewis claims that he studied David Einhorn “Fooling Some of the People All of the Time” to get into character. It is merely a coincidence that Bill Ackman, founder of the activist investing firm Pershing Square Capital, and Bobby Axelrod share the same initials.
In the same interview, Sorkin stated of Bobby Axelrod, “Bobby Axelrod is his own persona.” He is not based on anyone in particular, but he shares many qualities with actual hedge fund managers.
CEO All by Himself
Characteristically, Axelrod is highly complex. Despite his wealth, marriage, and two sons, Axelrod’s apparent loneliness is perhaps the most shocking aspect of his character. Only Chuck Rhoades’ trading psychologist wife, who is also Chuck Rhoades’ wife, gets access to his inner problems and goals.
The buying of a $63 million estate is a remarkable break from his customary manner of operation, as he has always endeavoured to tread lightly in his professional and personal activities. After Rhoades dissuades him against purchasing the estate, Axelrod becomes more determined to complete the transaction.
This is the final straw for Axelrod’s pet, who whimpers on the floor after being neutered and forced to wear a safety cone. Here, an obvious connection can be established. As a result, he allows his pride to overcome him. Soon after he makes a high-profile purchase, it becomes apparent that this decision may condemn him to failure later in the season.
This purchase concludes the first episode and initiates an investigation into his company’s practises.
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The Bottom Line
In the context of the world of hedge fund funding and government regulation, the Showtime series “Billions” provides an insightful look into the lives of its players. In late 2020, the programme will return for its sixth season.