I’ve been waiting to see Equity since I read about the project a few months ago. I like films about business and this one has received lots of attention because it is written, produced and directed by women. The story about taking a technology company public was interesting enough and the sub-plot about life in the Wall Street fast lane brought back memories of my time on various trading desks.
Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad fame did an admirable job of conveying Naomi Bishop, a smart and aggressive investment banker who likes power and financial independence. According to one of the creators, Amy Fox, “Naomi did not get where she is by being nice … Spending a year living the voice of Naomi and the other characters of Equity has reminded me of my own capacity for strength.” I applaud this message. Professionals, whether men or women should strive for professional excellence with confidence.
Where I disagree with the filmmakers is the idea that dishonest people are frequently rewarded and ethical persons are not. In this celluloid version of Wall Street, a top broker provides what seems like material non-public information to a fictitious hedge fund manager who is willing to take short cuts to profit big. A mid-level female investment banker sabotages Naomi’s deal and ends up moving up the ladder of success after Naomi is fired. A female regulator pretends she is a ditzy bar hound, luring a trader to spill the beans about how he talks to insiders for “edge.” The CEO of the technology company fires an employee, prior to the Initial Public Offering (“IPO”), because she identifies problems with the product that is being hawked as a fail-safe protection of private data.
For sheer entertainment, Equity is a fine way to spend ninety minutes. As a career lesson, I’d urge you to look elsewhere. While true that not every miscreant is brought to justice, a continued emphasis on compliance, governance and business ethics makes life more difficult for those who engage in questionable acts, whatever their gender.