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Betting on Zero (2016)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 17 March 2017 (USA)
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Writer/director Ted Braun follows controversial hedge fund titan Bill Ackman as he puts a billion dollars on the line in his crusade to expose Herbalife as the largest pyramid scheme in history.

Director:

Ted Braun

Writer:

Ted Braun (as Theodore Braun)
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
William Ackman ... Bill Ackman (Himself)
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Storyline

Writer/director Ted Braun follows controversial hedge fund titan Bill Ackman as he puts a billion dollars on the line in his crusade to expose Herbalife as the largest pyramid scheme in history.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Ultimate Shakedown

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

17 March 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Untitled Braun/Zipper Project See more »

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Color:

Color
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User Reviews

Entertaining, educational, with a dose of humanity.
10 April 2017 | by jdesandoSee all my reviews

William Ackman, quietly charismatic investor and producer of Inside Job, has made a short bet on Herbalife, which he claims is a pyramid scheme benefiting the rich at the top and stealing from the poor at the bottom. Betting on Zero is the fascinating documentary about the battle between equally charismatic Herbalife CEO, William Johnson, and Ackman.

The ambiguity comes on two levels: Is Johnson a con man or a brilliant business man? Is Ackman in this game to bring down the price of Herbalife's stock and cause the company to close, or is he looking to make a huge profit (he promises to spread his profit to the poor, mainly Latinos, who bought into the pyramid)? This doc is not as pro-Ackman as you might expect. By tracking him coming to a meeting like a rock star out of a black SUV and increasing skepticism about his motives, it seems to support a balanced view. Yes, Johnson has been part of a management that has made the company worth over $50 billion and many at that high level, millionaires, yet the evidence is that the need for more and more managers merely means more people in the lower levels will never make a buck.

As with The Big Short and Margin Call, both about the bad mortgage game, the tension is ripe even though we know the outcome of a potentially nerdy story. However, these stories are all fraught with human drama and educational enlightenment for those of us not versed in financial language and events.

These real-life stars carry the moral ambiguity of Shakespearean tragic characters, which, in this case, appear to honor and protect the consumers who buy their products. You will leave the theater with a better understanding of shorting and more than that, a wariness about door-to- door products and slick purveyors.


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