‘Black Monday’ Season 1: How a series of events rocked Wall Street and changed, well, nothing
While Showtime’s newest series ‘Black Monday’ is considered a comedy, it is actually based on real-life events that weren’t so funny. Back in 1987, Wall Street was in full swing, making people millions of dollars at the drop of a hat. That is until October 19th, 1987 when stock markets around the world crashed. This crash was unlike any that had ever happened before, and to this day, it is still one of the most devastating hits Wall Street has ever taken.
For many stockbrokers, this day was one of the most catastrophic and impactful days of their careers. Even for those that got into the business after 1987, Black Monday still affected them and the trajectory of the business in massive ways. MEAWW spoke with Marc Stone who began his career as a stockbroker and financial planner just two years after Black Monday in 1989. Having started in the business so soon after such a disastrous event, Stone expanded on the takeaways he got from Black Monday.
“I went into the business in 1989 and Black Monday very much still loomed over the industry. To me, Black Monday sort of told the story of how important patience is when you are investing. So the people that were very impatient or skittish lost a great deal of wealth on that day, and were punished very harshly for their impatience.”
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A common conception about one of the reasons behind the epic crash in 1987 was the emergence of computers and new technology. Stone weighed in on the matter, speaking on what he remembers being told about the crash at the start of his career and what else came into play.
“What we started seeing, even in '87, was that computers were involved quite a bit. I think that had a lot to do with it. As memory serves me, it had a lot to do with Greenspan who was the chairman of the fed at the time. He was beginning to slash interest rates and when the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates it means they are worried about the economy. Then all of the program trading kicked in and the computers took over. And of course, the way the computers impacted trading was nothing compared to what it’s like now, but it still kicked in all the program trading and potentially caused the crash.”
We also spoke with George Fill, who is the CEO and founder of David and Fill Financial, a boutique investing firm on Wall Street. Fill has a slightly different take on what really caused the crash in 1987 and how the markets outside of the US all tied into what happened on that fateful day.
“Just about every time this happens, any market crash gets politicized immediately and typically the wrong thing gets the blame. In 1987, the generally accepted reason for the crash was due to computerized trading systems being implemented across numerous firms. Although that may have played a small part in some further downside, it really was overleveraged conditions across the entire market and geopolitical events concerning Iran blowing up ships in the middle east. The fact that the stock exchange in London was closed on a Friday before due to a storm as the Iranian situation was developing was part of the set up as well.”
Unfortunately, the crash in 1987 wasn’t the last of its kind and many compare the 2008 financial crisis to Black Monday itself. Stone spoke on what actually happened in 2008 and both the similarities and differences between what happened in 2008 versus 1987.
“2008 was the financial crisis, which was brought upon through subprime loans and the housing situation. What you had there was that the market went down over a three month period the same extent it did on that one day in 1987, Black Monday. It was bad and over the course of a six month period the market went down fifty percent but it wasn’t in one day like in 1987.”
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Stone isn’t the only one to draw similarities between Black Monday and the 2008 financial crisis. Fill also spoke on the similarities and differences, but how both events did, in fact, cause great widespread panic which always heightens any situation. In fact, the original title of Showtime’s ‘Black Monday’ was ‘Ball Street’, which went into development in 2013. The project did not end up going forward at that time because it was actually about the financial crisis in ’08 and it just hit too close to home. Cut to 2016, the project was brought back but with a new focus, Black Monday.
“I think the similarities between ’87 and '08 were that after a period of running up in prices and riskier and riskier buying habits using borrowed money, something caused the whole thing to come down and caused people who were overextended to panic and sell and just salvage what they had left. In 87’ it was the geopolitical events along with London being shut down (mind you by the end of October of ’87, literally the entire world’s markets were down between 25 and 50 percent). In 08’ Lehman Brothers failing and not being able to meet their debt obligations was a massive, massive problem and AIG and the crashing of the CDS market led to panic and hysteria.”
One of the most common misconceptions about Wall Street, especially in the 1980s, was the drug and party atmosphere. Just like in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, Showtime’s ‘Black Monday’ portrays the industry and time period as one that was fueled with booze, drugs, sex and partying. While we all know that Hollywood tends to take creative liberties, there is always some kernel of truth, which both Stone and Fill touched on. Stone does believe that much of Hollywood’s portrayal of this industry and time period is absurd but there is also some truth in it.
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“In ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ they showed a lot of parties and hookers and I think it was ridiculous. Even in that era in the 1980s, you didn’t have that kind of debauchery going on. However, what you did have in that era was tons of drugs. I think that during that time the money was coming in very fast and there was a lot of outrageousness going on in that regard.”
That said, Fill’s firm is actually in the epicenter of where all of this supposed debauchery takes place, Wall Street. He spoke on what it’s like today and the rumors he heard to be true regarding Wall Street in the 80s. “To this day the party atmosphere is still there but much more under the radar. In the 80s and 90s, the stories I’ve heard was the bottom drawer of guys desks would be lined with plastic bags and ice and they would have beer and bottles of liquor chilled, just getting hammered all day and making a ton of money doing it.”
Showtime sure has a lot to work with in regards to the entertainment aspect of telling this crazy, real-life story. And while yes, it will most certainly be overdramatized, it has all of the makings of an in your face, wild and slightly absurd dark comedy.
Make sure to catch the premiere of ‘Black Monday’ tonight on Showtime at 7 p.m. EST and 10 p.m. PST.