April 21, 2012

Movie Review: "Unraveled" A Documentary About Marc Dreier

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I've always had a curious mind and always pondered why people do what they do. During the financial collapse of 2009 many frauds came to light such as Bernie Madoff. "Unraveled" is a documentary that takes you inside the mind of a white collar criminal. The subject is Marc Dreier who's $400 million ponzi scheme was overshadowed by Madoff who was convicted just several days before him. I finally was able to see it in New York last night and really enjoyed it.

"People don't wake up wanting to be a criminal."

It was like no other documentary I've seen since it was just Dreier in his $10 million penthouse apartment under 60 day house arrest before awaiting his sentencing. It was all his narrative so the director Marc Simon tried to bring out the answers to questions like "why did you do it?" "do you feel bad?" etc. He was very candid and open but still had that lawyer way of spinning words so he didn't seem like the bad guy. He says he was surrounded by it, no one stopped him and "If my personal life had more satisfying I probably wouldn't have reached for something higher." I don't necessarily believe him since he always seemed unsatisfied no matter how successful he was.

"I've lost everything a man could lose" 

He explains his upbringing as "normal" but there has to be a reason he felt so insecure that he needed to keep up appearances. His father immigrated to New York from Europe. He grew up upper-middle class on Long Island with a sister and brother. He was President of his class, voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in high school, his parents paid for his college, he went to Yale and Harvard Law School. This isn't the typical profile of a criminal.

"Madoff and those who were caught are only a small fraction of those who were doing this." 

Yes, many men around him were doing similar things; however, not at the same level him and Bernie Madoff took it. The numbers are staggering! In nearly 6 years, he stole nearly $750 million dollars from 4 clients, 4 individuals and 13 hedge funds. Drier challenges that many people would do what he did if given the opportunity and they didn't think they would caught. He acknowledges that some people may have a moral high-ground but thinks most people would do exactly what he and other white collar criminals did. We romantize theft or "sticking it to the big man" in films like Ocean's Eleven and Catch Me If You Can but when it happens in real life, we frown up on it.

How did he get caught? A typo. Since Dreier was forging the signatures and documents on behalf of other hedge funds, he would ask that they only contact him directly. Someone typed in a wrong letter when emailing him so it bounced back. That person called the hedge fund asking for another email which the hedge fund immediately raised eyebrows because they had no idea what was going on. It seems that most of these ponzi schemers get caught by accidental coincidences rather than the law.

Lastly, I would just like to point out that none of these ponzi scheme, fraud, embezzlement white collar criminals were women. Power and wealth is such a fantasy of the male ego.

I highly recommend it! Don't worry the explanation of how he stole money is explained in simple terms (even I could follow along) and this film does one of two things 1) gives you a better understanding of why he did what he did and 2) shines a spotlight on the flaws in our system. It will baffle you the things he got away with and how he deceived people.

Here's the trailer:

If you weren't able to catch it in theaters, it is also available on Video on Demand!

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