Business

  • All Wars are Bankers' Wars

    The United States fought the American Revolution primarily over King George III's Currency act, which forced the colonists to conduct their business only using printed bank notes borrowed from the Bank of England at interest.

    After the revolution, the new United States adopted a radically different economic system in which the government issued its own value-based money, so that private banks like the Bank of England were not siphoning off the wealth of the people through interest-bearing bank notes.

    But bankers are nothing if not dedicated to their schemes to acquire your wealth, and know full well how easy it is to corrupt a nation's leaders.

    Just one year after Mayer Amschel Rothschild had uttered his infamous "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who makes the laws", the bankers succeeded in setting up a new Private Central Bank called the First Bank of the United States, largely through the efforts of the Rothschild's chief US supporter, Alexander Hamilton.

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  • Bigger Than Enron

    On June 15, a Houston jury convicted Arthur Andersen — the 89-year-old accounting firm once known as the gold standard of integrity in auditing — for obstruction of justice in the government’s investigation of Enron, Andersen’s biggest client. With the demise of Andersen, the American business landscape was forever altered. But something else was altered as well: the scandal surrounding Enron and Andersen, together with the wave of other major accounting scandals that have come to light in recent months, has dealt America’s markets an unsettling psychological blow. If we can't trust the auditors, investors wonder, whom can we trust?

    The meteoric rise and stunning collapse of Enron caused many to question why the corporate oversight system that was supposed to protect investors failed to sound any alarms about the company’s dubious finances. But Enron and Arthur Andersen turn out to be merely the tip of the iceberg. In the 1990s, more than 700 U.S. companies were forced to correct misleading financial statements as a result of accounting failures, lapses, or outright fraud. Together with Enron — the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history — these failures have cost investors an estimated $200 billion.

    Enron’s collapse in late 2001 galvanized Congress and brought urgent calls for reform. The House and Senate held hearings and introduced legislation to reform the accounting industry. But so far no bill has passed both chambers and been signed into law. Instead, after prolonged criticism for moving too slowly and being too soft on the accounting firms, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt has taken the initiative, announcing on June 20 his proposal for a new Public Accountability Board. Critics, however, still say that his plans are too weak, and question whether he is genuinely prepared to cross his former clients in the accounting industry, which he represented as a top Wall Street lawyer throughout the 1990s.

    Running time 52 Min.

  • China - Getting Rich

    It is one of the most extraordinary transformations of our time - China. A country long in the grip of communism is now devoted to private enterprise. That is what they had to do for the ordinary people of China to become richer. This new economic superpower is taking on the West. But China's surging economy has a dark side. Can China keep moving forward or will the forces of change tear it apart?

    The city of Chongqing is a sprawling metropolis of seven million people. It's the scene of one of the latest chapters in China's remarkable economic rise. Back in the 1980's China's communist party decided to permit the return of private enterprise. In cities along the coast thousands of new factories sprung up fueling an economic boom. Now, China's trying to extent that boom to the interior of the country to places like Chongqing. The government is pouring in money to improve and modernize the city.

    Chongqing today is a city on the move; a place where if you're smart enough and tough enough, you can get rich. Like the man who lives there, secluded high above the city. His name is Zuo Zongshen. Zuo is one of the richest men in China. He's a charter member of China's new business elite. A self-made man with a powerful will to succeed.

    His family and he were ordinary people. In the eyes of Westerners they would have been considered very poor. When he had the opportunity he cherished it and worked hard. When China's leaders allowed the return of private enterprise Zuo was ready to make his move. His home is a monument to his success. Zuo's palatial estate is tended by a private staff of more than sixty. The interior of his sprawling mansion recalls the splendor of old Europe. On his manicured grounds he keeps black swans and an assortment of animals. English thoroughbreds and Zuo's special passion, a collection of pedigree dogs housed in kennels kept immaculately clean.

    For most of the year Zuo lives there alone. His wife works for him in the United States where she lives with their young son. That way he has more time to work because he's by himself and he has nothing to worry about. At night he has a lot of time for work. He works on Sundays too. Work has become a habit for him.

    Running time 53 Min.

  • Debt: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    You may think that money is invented to make exchange easier. You could imagine that at some point in prehistory. A hunter just shot a deer and a farmer has some carrots and they want to exchange but the meat is worth much more than the carrots. They need to invent something to pay each other the difference. In this story, that's something would be money, be it in the form of shells or lumps of gold or silver or whatever.

    Later in the story, banks would appear to store the money and to lend out money from people who have too much money, who are the savers, to those who have too little money, the investors. That's when credit and debt systems appeared. Money came first and then credit and debt in this story. The problem with this story is it may sound plausible, but there is very little historical or archeological evidence for it, plus it has some logical problems.

    There's a lot evidence and arguments to believe that debt came first and money later when people started to use their debt tokens, their debt symbols as money. Now, why would this be the case? In the first place, it would be logical because of seasonal production. In Asian societies dependent on seasonal production, food and other products come onto the market at different times of the year. The farmer perhaps has not yet harvested the carrots while the hunter already shot the deer with no fridge to keep it in. What do they do? The farmer accepts the meat now on the promise that he will pay the carrots later as they come available. At this moment, the farmer has accepted a debt, which is a promise to pay the hunter in the future.

    Here, we have a relation between a creditor and a debtor. Now, with more people than just these two in anyone's society and with different products, you can imagine you quickly get a complex web of credit relations. Also, each debt contracts may have a lot of detail, not only how much is owed but also when it needs repaying, in what form, what the interest is and so on. For all these, you will need a system to record it.

    The upstart is as soon as you had specialization of production with different people producing different things at different times of the year, then you need to record credit and debt, what we now call double entry bookkeeping. Albert Einstein seems to have said that, "Humanity made three great inventions in prehistory: fire, the wheel and double-entry bookkeeping."

    Now, this is all really interesting but how does money come in and why do we need to know all these. Money is simply debt symbols, debt tokens which are used as payments. After all, a debt is a claim on future goods and services as we just saw. It's really worth something and that means you can pay with it. Let's say the debt is written on a clay tablet. The hunter can now use the tablets to pay somewhere else like a fisherman.

    As the debt tokens are moved out that particular trading relationship, there will also be the need for some external authority to assert their value, like kings or chiefs proclaiming the value of money. This also opens up the possibility of central clearing, which greatly simplifies things.

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  • Four Horsemen

    Over the centuries systems have been subtly modified, manipulated and even corrupted often to serve the interests of the few. We've continually accepted these changes and because man can adjust to living under virtually any conditions, the trait that's enabled us to survive is the very trait that's suppressed us. For centuries gatekeepers have manipulated our cognitive map. But in 1989 a computer scientist by the name of Tim Berners-Lee implemented the first successful communication between an HTTP client and server.

    The World Wide Web was born. It is since unleashed a tsunami of instantly accessible, freely available information. Just as Gutenberg's printing press wrestled control of the cognitive map away from ecclesiastical and royal elite, today the Internet is beginning to change Governments, finance and the media. We are on the brink of change, but to enact it we must first understand the things that have been left unsaid for so long. To do that we need context from people who speak the truth in the face of collective delusion, because to understand something is to be liberated from it.

    Empires do not begin or end on a certain date, but they do end and the West has not yet come to terms with its fading supremacy. At the end of every empire under the guise of renewal, tribes, armies and organizations appear and devour the heritage of the former superpower often from within. In his essay, The Fate of Empires, the soldier, diplomat and traveler, Lieutenant-General Sir John John Glubb analyzed the lifecycle of empires. He found remarkable similarities between them all. An empire lasts about 250 years, or 10 generations, from the early pioneers to the final conspicuous consumers who become a burden on the state.

    Six ages define the lifespan of an empire: the age of pioneers, the age of conquests, the age of commerce, the age of affluence, the age of intellect, ending with bread and circuses in the age of decadence. There are common features to every age of decadence: an undisciplined and over extended military, the conspicuous display of wealth, a massive disparity between rich and poor, a desire to live off a bloated state, and an obsession with sex. But perhaps the most notorious trait of all is the debasement of the currency. The United States and Great Britain both begun on a gold or silver standard, long since abandoned. Rome was no different.

    Great empire wealth always dazzles, but beneath the surface the unbridle desire for money, power and material possessions means that duty and public service are replaced by leaders and citizens who scramble for the spoils.

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  • Hidden Secrets of Money

    Your real riches are your time and independence. Money is just an instrument for buying your time. It's a canister to hold your financial power until you're prepared and comfortable enough to re-distribute it or use it. But the whole world has been alienated from the actual money and has been tricked into utilizing a currency - a dishonest fraud that is quietly depriving you from your two most important assets.

    We are spiraling into an era of economic catastrophe that is the most extreme the world has ever seen. The affluence relocation that will happen in this decade will be the biggest one in history. Actually wealth is never lost, it is only shifted. And that means that on the other side of every catastrophe there is a moment of opportunity.

    The good news is that all you have to accomplish to change this crisis into your favor is to educate yourself. The greatest investment that you can make in your life is your own self-improvement and education. Education on the history of money, finance, currency, how the global economy works, etc. Education on how the central bank and the stock market can defraud you... and how they can swindle you.

    If you discover what is going on and inform yourself about how the economic world works, you can place yourself on the appropriate side of this wealth relocation. Winston Churchill once said that "the further you look into the past, the further that you can see into the future".

    The way the financial system operates is not totally hidden. It's visible, but it's complicated and people just don't, and can't see how it functions. It's very difficult for them to assume that we're involved in such a hoax. Besides that, some of the things are meant to be hidden, but the truth is slowly coming out.

    Running time 151 Min.

  • How We Made Our Millions

    Is the question that everyone wants an answer to. What is the secret to extraordinary success? Is it grit, is it determination, luck, or is it who you actually know? Peter Jones has been in business now for some thirty years and he can tell you that all successful entrepreneurs share a few unique qualities, certain traits that give them the upper hand. But what are they and can they be learned?

    He's on a mission to find out what drives Britain's best entrepreneurs and uncover the human side that determines their success or failure. He wants them to reveal their individual recipes for success so he can discover just how they made their millions. Success in business isn't a fine science. Peter Jones has turned tiny startups into a multi-million pound companies but not all of his ventures have succeeded. Business is tough. But he always believed there are certain factors that can give us all a fighting chance. He's on a journey to get inside the minds of two of the country's top business people and he's hoping to discover the ways in which the most unlikely characters become multi-millionaires.

    Peter will be spending time with Richard Reed, founder of a smoothie company with a 165 million pound turnover, andMichelle Mone, the self-made inspiration behind a multi-million pound lingerie business and who, according to the rich list, is worth 50 million pounds. Have they both followed the same blueprint to success or is it their difference that matters most?

    Richard is leading a new wave of entrepreneurs who have embraced a business style pioneered in the US by companies like Google. He believes that if his employees feel at home they'll be extra productive. But despite opting for open collar Peter still felt overdressed. Richard has set up the fruit company in 1999 with fellow graduates and today he sells over two million bottles of smoothies a week.

    Running time 60 Min.

  • Money and Speed: Inside the Black Box

    Money and Speed: Inside the Black Box is a thriller based on actual events that takes you to the heart of our automated world.

    Based on interviews with those directly involved and data visualizations up to the millisecond, it reconstructs the flash crash of May 6th 2010: the fastest and deepest U.S. stock market plunge ever. Money and Speed: Inside the Black Box is developed by filmmaker Marije Meerman in close collaboration with design studio Catalogtree.

    This exploratory documentary is a marriage of strong storytelling and meticulous visual analysis. A rare opportunity to experience what is happening inside the black boxes of our rapidly evolving financial markets.

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  • Not Business As Usual

    The traditional form of capitalism is putting a product or service to the market and making money. However, some businessmen contemplate that the real entrepreneurship is to figure out how the world is better off because of your product or service and bring that into the marketplace.

    Business is a kind of construct for people to get together to achieve some kind of result, so why not take business as a tool to achieve more progressive result. Instead of seeing capitalism as an evil which's destroying humanity on the planet you can take capitalism and use it with a conscience to create a purposeful result... adjust and equitable society.

    Twentieth century model of capitalism has one rule in its operating system which is: The purpose of the corporation is to maximize shareholder value exclusively even if that means that there are significant, for the benefit of the doubt, unintended consequences.

    But new communications channels, like social media primarily, are driving transparency into companies. They can't get away with careless behavior anymore. They need to be very, very diligent about how they serve the community. That's driving corporate social responsibility, it's driving better governance and it's certainly driving sustainability. That's has been constant trend over the last 15-20 years.

    The baby boomers' generation grew up in a world with one motto "If I have stuff I am successful." This shaped the minds of that generation, so by the time the baby boomers got in control of the economy, in the 1980's, excess was everywhere. It became all about stuff. Corporations became about adding book value for shareholders, not adding societal value for all stakeholders.

    In the last 50 years of business companies are rewarded based on success of one metric and that's profit. CEOs who are successful deliver profit to shareholders. Our entire stock exchange is founded upon that so it's hard for us criticize the CEOs for forsaking other things like supplier relations or social impact or other causes.

    Running time 62 Min.

  • Stealing Africa

    Zambia's copper resources have not made the country rich. Virtually all Zambia's copper mines are owned by corporations. In the last ten years, they've extracted copper worth $29 billion but Zambia is still ranked one of the twenty poorest countries in the world.

    So why hasn't copper wealth reduced poverty in Zambia? Once again it comes down to the issue of tax, or in Zambia's case, tax avoidance and the use of tax havens.

    Tax avoidance by corporations costs poor countries and estimated $160 billion a year, almost double what they receive in international aid. That's enough to save the lives of 350,000 children aged five or under every year.

    For every $1 given in aid to a poor country, $10 drains out. Vital money that could help a poor country pay for healthcare, schools, pensions and infrastructure. Money that would make them less reliant on aid.

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  • The Tax Free Tour

    Where do multinationals pay taxes and how much? Gaining insight from international tax experts, Backlight director Marije Meerman (the maker of Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street and Money and Speed: Inside the Black Box), takes a look at tax havens, the people who live there and the routes along which tax is avoided globally.

    Those routes go by resounding names like 'Cayman Special', 'Double Irish', and 'Dutch Sandwich'. A financial world operates in the shadows surrounded by a high level of secrecy. A place where sizable capital streams travel the world at the speed of light and avoid paying tax.

    The Tax Free Tour is an economic thriller mapping the systemic risk for governments and citizens alike. Is this the price we have to pay for globalized capitalism?

    At the same time, the free online game "Taxodus" by Femke Herregraven is launched. In the game, the player can select the profile of a multinational and look for the global route to pay as little tax as possible.

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  • The Treason Trilogy: Capitalism, Terror and Doom

    Casino Capitalism. The moment that defined the chaos of the 21st century is the financial atomic bomb that exploded in the heart of the world's banking system, sucking up the lifeblood of the global economy, the credit that keeps the wheels of fortune turning. Banks grown too big to go bust held nations to ransom and trillions of dollars cascaded into the bankers vaults. Leaders of the twentieth largest economies promised never again but once again they've betrayed their duty to protect the wealth and the welfare of their people.

    The Crucible of Terror. Barack Obama's plan to defeat terrorists is like throwing petrol on a fire. The President's dream of peace is straitjacketed by economic policies that incubate the seeds of violence. How did the most powerful man on earth become prisoner of a false economic doctrine which threatens the security of the United States and nations around the world?Capitalism was conceived nearly 500 years ago with the Royal act of sacrilege. When Henry VIII demolished the religious life of his nation to enrich himself he laid the foundations for the kind of violence that now blights every corner of the world.

    The Temple of Doom. Humans have taken control of the destiny of all life on Earth. What was once the domain of the Gods is now in the hands of mortals and their leaders are worshipers in the Temple of Doom. For hundreds of thousands of years the oceans moved with the ups and downs of the levels of the greenhouse gases, but then the humans begun releasing a new layer of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

    Some scientists say this will rise the global temperatures causing an environmental catastrophe. Rising sea levels of just a few meters would flood most of the coastline of United States. Around the world thousands of cities would be submerged by nature's retribution. Governments say they want to reduce greenhouse gases and protect species, like fish in the oceans, that are exposed to the economics of greed.

    Running time 83 Min.

  • The Wall Street Code

    Super quick computers and advanced mathematical formulas have largely taken over trading on the financial markets from human beings - algorithms which seem to have a life of their own. Algorithms secretly lie waiting for the moment that your Apple share or your pension money gets on the market. The only ones who understand the system in any way are its architects, the algorithm developers. Haim Bodek is one such algo-developer.

    After finding some strange wrongdoings he set out on a personal crusade against this elusive system. Welcome to the twisted nooks and crannies of our financial markets. The machinery behind our financial markets, consisting of mathematical models, data centers and miles and miles of fiber optic cables, is disguised by technological complexity and secrecy. The builders of this financial system are a new breed of Wall Street employees - quants - mathematicians and physicists who are responsible for a technological revolution.

    Haim Bodek is a quant; he specialized in artificial intelligence and worked for Goldman Sachs. He knows the system from the inside, he helped build it. In 2011 Bodek's high-frequency trading company "Trading Machines" went under. According to Bodek the reason was a wrong order type, or the way in which he told the exchange to execute his order. Haim Bodek was invited to tell his story at the "Battle of the Quants" - a recurring event where quants discuss high-frequency trading, amongst other things.

    Bodek wrote an algorithm for trading machines that would generate guaranteed income - a money machine that weathered the financial meltdown of 2008. But then from one day to the next the algorithm stopped working. Bodek thought he understood the automated financial markets, but with the help of the social codes within the high-frequency trading world certain traders had found a way to have their orders jump the queue. Our search for the origins of the technological revolution, that has taken place in financial markets over the past few decades, leads us to an even greater trading legend.

    Running time 50 Min.

  • Wage Crisis

    The American working underclass has been under extreme tension for some time. Now with politicians not inclined to increase the minimum wage and food stamps stretched thin, the social ramification could be disastrous. The recession is not over for most American citizens. Most Americans have basically seen their salaries hibernate or go down since 2008. In fact, American average income of a full time male worker today is lower than it was 40 years ago.

    Close to half of the working Americans can't save for an emergency or their own retirement. 50% of the people in U.S. live in financial uncertainty. It might be unbelievable, but New Jersey is the third richest state in the richest country on this planet, yet one it's likely to work full time there and in the same time live in financial difficulty. The prevailing story's been Obamacare and the debt ceiling, but more permanent story is the struggle to make ends meet. The middle class in the US is disappearing as wages go in reverse and secure jobs with good pay and benefits vanish.

    If you think these problems are applicable only to New Jersey, think again. Across the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, there are more and more working people who are living in grinding poverty. America's regular working people have no sick leave, no holiday leave, no health care benefits in a society where medical aid is extremely expensive. It's morally scandalous that in a country as affluent as the U.S. they have such low, incredibly low, minimum wages.

    Running time 26 Min.