Michael Douglas, the actor, appears in a public service announcement for the FBI warning of the dangers of insider trading. Douglas makes reference to his famous movie role, Gordon Gekko, from the 1987 hit, Wall Street. You’ll recall that Douglas as Gekko intoned that infamous mantra of the go-go 1980s, “Greed is good.” The FBI hopes the PSA with Douglas will inspire current Wall Street denizens to report illegal trading.
The video, shot last November in the Trump Hotel in Manhattan, is also an effort to raise the F.B.I.’s public profile. Or, as David A. Chaves, a supervisor and special agent, said on Monday, “It’s important for us to have the F.B.I. brand out on Wall Street.”
See, the FBI does a fair amount of investigation into financial crimes, but does not receive much awareness for its activities, taking a backseat to more well known Federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC. So, the Douglas ad does double duty: First, it solicits tipsters and second, it builds the FBI brand.
I grew up watching Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. in the 1960s hit TV series, the FBI.
The show enjoyed the cooperation of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI and displayed a kind of fictional verité where the good guys always won without being boring. It was great PR and demonstrated just why Mr. Hoover was such a dangerous guy.
Now. Will this media ploy with Michael Douglas provide similar magic for the FBI? Consider this observation from Douglas.
In the wake of the popularity of the first “Wall Street,” Mr. Douglas would receive high-fives and handshakes from real-life traders and bankers when he walked the streets of Manhattan. The Wall Streeters loved Mr. Gekko, who declares in the film that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” But the outpouring of love for such a character befuddled Mr. Douglas, who won a best-actor Academy Award for his role in the first Wall Street film. Mr. Douglas wondered why he was being thanked, according to Mr. Chaves, who quoted him as saying: “I’m a criminal in the movie. Don’t they realize that?”
Michael Douglas is popular, famous, likeable, and credible as both a person and an actor. Yet, the FBI may have the wrong man for the Cue. Many Wall Street workers would still find nothing wrong in what Gordon Gekko did other than let himself get caught in an embarrassing situation. Gekko hung himself on a wiretap hidden on a formerly trusted associate. If Gekko had controlled his anger at that associate (Bud, played by Charlie Sheen, remember?), he would have faced no legal problem he couldn’t solve. The lesson of Gekko for many is this: Be careful who you trust.
Hollywood stars are powerful persuasion Cues and earn millions of dollars as endorsers or speakers or models. They attract Reception and Exposure in the first stage of the Cascade and can Cue the desired TACT to hit the ultimate downstream behavior. But, they are not automatic persuasion plays. The FBI might actually make it harder to catch financial criminals and buff their brand with this PSA.
P.S. Take a YouTube blast from the past with Gekko and greed!