From the Trader’s Desk, Billions S2E11: What the hell just happened?

Greetings from the Trader’s Desk!

After a brief hiatus, I’m back to dissect “Golden Frog Time”. Since this episode revolved around an IPO and stock manipulation, there’s a lot for me to say. I’ll be breaking my post into two sections: first part on the new Head of Research, Taylor and second part on Axe and Ice Juice (ICEJ).

At Paley Live, I told the writers that they get the “fin speak” spot on. However, with “Golden Frog Time” I do have one issue. On the first trading day of an IPO, the stock is usually Hard to Borrow (you need to borrow stock in order to short it). Shares are usually locked up in restricted shares for initial investors, employees of the company, and Board members (like Ira). They are considered “locked up” due to a period of time (usually 90-180 days) where you can’t sell the shares. Most brokers won’t have the inventory, hence “Hard to Borrow”. The investment banks that took the company public (in this case Patriot) would have shares as well, but they would most likely not lend them out to short, as it is in their best interest to have the stock rise. This is a long way of saying that if Axe did want to short ICEJ, he probably couldn’t do it on Day 1. If I’m going to praise Billions when they get it right, I also need to call things out if they don’t seem right as well. Sorry!! (All references to “fin speak” are explained in more detail in our Billions: Glossary)

Source: Showtime

This was a very interesting episode for Taylor. We saw a few different sides of the new Head of Research, and I love the complexity of this character. I also love the fact that in “With or Without You” Taylor was not a rat. Yes, I know some people say “whistle-blower”, but where I come from, it’s called rat, and that is one of the worst things you can be called.

Taylor needs to get rid of an analyst, and they are going “by the numbers”, which for them, makes sense. That is Taylor’s world; it’s how they think. But Axe knows that along with getting the numbers right, you need to have that something extra – the want, the drive, the desire. Axe asks Taylor to basically analyze the analysts: look at them as they would a stock; who is going to outperform and who is overvalued.

Source: Showtime

Taylor’s interviews with the analysts are hysterical to me! I have met and worked with each and every type of those of people in this business: the cry-baby (Ben), the chip on the shoulder (Idaho), the insecure weasel (Pununzio) and the person who may not have the Ivy League education, and may have gotten the job the long way round, but will work twice as hard as anyone else because they have the desire to pick stocks (Rudy). I was so happy Taylor kept Rudy because “he’s scrappy and deserves the chance”. I’ve talked a lot about how just one person believing in you in this business can make all the difference, and in this case, Taylor comes through.

Taylor goes to Wendy for advice on how to fire someone. They are apprehensive and looking for affirmation. Taylor’s dad was fired from his job when Taylor was young and it had an effect on their home life. Wendy asks Taylor how the company did, and when Taylor says “it thrived” you can almost see it click in Taylor’s mind: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Those words (for me at least) are always equated with my favorite Vulcan, Mr. Spock. I see a lot of Spock in Taylor: logical, methodical, pragmatic. If Axe Capital is to thrive, then an analyst has to go.

Source: Showtime

Bryan is still on a quest to flip Taylor. He believes just because they share some of the same causes, they think alike. He does not realize that Taylor sees the world much differently than he does. Bryan is full of feelings and emotions and uses that to his advantage. Taylor, like Spock, is in a sense disconnected from emotions; they make their choices and decisions based on facts and logic. Axe Capital has made Taylor “feel alive” because they are doing what they love, and are appreciated for who they are: brilliant, analytical, and logical. If I ever do decide to change from #TeamAxe, it would only be to #TeamTaylor!

There is no one in this business who won’t sell you out if they think there is a nickel in it!

I find that strangely reassuring. It eliminates the possibility of disillusionment.

That exchange between Wags and Axe does seem to be a premonition of things to come.

Wags tells Axe ICEJ is legit. Patriot is taking it public and the analysts at the “Big 3” are all positive on it. I’m going to assume the “Big 3” Wags is talking about is Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. Those are 3 of the biggest sell-side firms on the street (you could replace BoA/Merrill Lynch with any of those as well). A call from an analyst from any of those shops, and it would definitely move the name.

Chuck Sr. has a big position in ICEJ but where did he get the cash? He’s got a lot of real estate, but he’s cash poor. Who would give a personal loan of that size to someone? Could only be Chuck Jr. Axe can now take down two birds with one stone, his golden frog poison play.

source: Showtime

The two Chucks and Ira talk about the upcoming IPO, and Ira reveals he is selling his shares in his law firm. He believes ICEJ is his golden ticket. Since we know that for Chuck this whole ICEJ was a trap for Axe, does he even care what he could be doing to his family and best friend? I know Axe screws people all the time. But he’s a fund manager and usually he’s only screwing other managers, kind of like the mob only goes after other mob guys. Chuck is going to hurt the people closest to him. His diabolical laugh at the end of the episode makes me think he really doesn’t care. As long as he gets his white whale, all collateral damage will be worth it. Or will it?

Chuck gets stock monitoring and trading software on his computer, and it is the only time I can say he and I have ANYTHING in common. However, I do have 4 computers on my desk with that stuff, so there!

9:30 AM is opening bell and we’re off! (I would have loved for the show to have actually filmed something on the floor of the NYSE or at the NASDAQ for this.)

source: Showtime

Mafee tells Axe a small retail broker, Traderight (think Schwab or Ameritrade) is buying a ton of shares of ICEJ. Wags knows it must be Chuck Sr., as funds or institutions would be going through Patriot, the investment bank who brought the deal public. On this news, it’s Golden Frog Time!

I do not judge Axe on his actions, right or wrong. I’ve been told my moral compass doesn’t point true North, so I’m not the best person to judge anyone. That being said, I will say that I admire Axe’s plays! Last season, he fooled everyone by faking getting out of the business to avoid the telecom meltdown he knew was coming and that was pure genius. Coming up with the idea to basically spike the swamp juice was brilliant! I tip my Mets cap to Bobby Axelrod!

But this time there’s a problem: Axe needs and goes to people he wouldn’t normally trust (a recurring theme for him this season). He is so consumed with the kill, he is being sloppy (he would never in a million years trust someone like Margolis for a play this big). I have made this observation on him too many times this season and I don’t think I did that once last season.

source: Showtime

Wendy runs (rats) to Chuck when she finds out Axe Capital is short ICEJ. She is trying to warn him, and is even breaking her confidentiality clause to do it. Chuck plays the “I can’t believe you don’t believe in me” card, and I want to vomit. Chuck is an insecure little man who still does what his daddy says and still wants to get back at the bullies on the playground – 40 years later! Why anyone would believe in him is beyond me. In a state of spite, Wendy calls Mafee and gets in on the short action on ICEJ. Wendy calls in a short of the stock her husband is long right after visiting him. Hmm. The timing of this call could be everything.

Ira calls Chuck in a panic. The stock was tanking and then was halted. I’m not afraid of much when it comes to the market, but the halt of a stock is something I dread. When a stock is halted, you cannot buy or sell any shares. You are frozen. And, depending on the news, the stock can open anywhere when it resumes trading. A stock can be $20 before being halted, and then open at $2 (that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift).

While reviewing the trading confirmations, Wags notices Wendy got a piece of the ICEJ short, and Axe is not happy. I wonder why that is. It actually may come in handy to him down the road.

source: Showtime

After a long day of making a ton of money, Axe comes home to Lara having pizza and wine. Lara notes that she sees something she hasn’t seen in a while: Bobby Fucking Axelrod. We have not seen him much lately either. This day was not about optics or ass covering; it was just about making money and making plays. That is what Axe does best, for good or for bad. The shark is swimming again. However, although BFA is who Lara fell in love with, her head is still on his lie, and their romantic evening turns to frustration. Lara may forgive, but she doesn’t forget.

source: Showtime

In several flashbacks, we see how Chuck set Axe up for a huge fall, even getting Boyd and Dake in on the action. He is giddy as a school girl believing he may have finally put the stake in Axe’s heart. And perhaps he has.

I’m a trader, and I’ll trade anything (I’m the moron who once shorted Apple), but if there is one thing I’d never bet against, it’s Bobby Fucking Axelrod, ever.

38 thoughts on “From the Trader’s Desk, Billions S2E11: What the hell just happened?”

  1. Fantastic post! I think I have read it the second it was published because I made a few points/predictions in my recap and I was so looking forward to your take on them!

    I LOVE your analysis of Taylor as well as your familiarity with all different types of analysts at Axe Capital! We were “aww…” when Ben had a tear in his eye. He is so young and I am so glad he is in! And Rudy is adorable. The actors are wonderful and Billions is doing a remarkable job making us care about every character. The only other show in which I cared almost about everyone was Mad Men.

    I am so glad you also think the timing of Wendy’s short could be everything. And the brilliance of the show just never ceases to amaze me. Now, about Chuck throwing Ira under the bus: Yes, but I thought it could be short term — if everything went according to the plan and the scandal was outed, then Ice Juice could recover. Am I wrong? I can imagine it would not sky rocket in value or that it may in fact take time for the stock to recover and come to a good value but I thought both Chuck and Ira could make some capital gain in the long term… And that, I think, was the reason why Chuck was trying to make Ira not sell his shares to his law firm partners just yet. So, yes, Chuck is using Ira (I, in fact, thought about Axe using Donnie here — another possible parallel, you know what you and I should write a post about parallels b/w Chuck and Axe at some point, that would be FUN!) and it is despicable in its own right; however, it is possible for them to get their money back. What would you say?

    Having said this, Wendy’s short makes everything complicated. Chuck has no idea that she shorted the stock. And this could come back and haunt her during Operation Dake! Would Chuck go and try to stop the investigation then? On one side it will be his and Ira’s money and on the other side it will be Wendy. WOW. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. I cannot wait for more but this one will probably be a story for next season! Oh, and by the way, I thought Axe was pissed off with Mafee that he did what Wendy asked without checking with Axe. On the other hand, Axe saw Wendy’s move as a bold one against the family. And, hey, she could be his savior! And it would be another parallel in the sense that Axe did not say $5M was a “bribe” because he did not want Wendy to go to jail, and Chuck may stop chasing Axe on Ice Juice (if he can!) because he will not want Wendy to go to jail. CRAZY!

    Oh, you really don’t like Chuck! There are moments where I think he is an insecure little man, but there are moments like his cry laugh at the end that makes me go WOW about Chuck! He is as sharp as Axe for sure. But, yeah, he always had his dad next to him for help — but, in fact, he pulled this play keeping dad in the dark! I think I am the only the one that like and enjoy every single character. And I move from team to team and have FUN 😀

    1. Thank you as always partner!

      Taylor is fast becoming a very important and complex character. I love where the writers are taking them, and just can’t wait to see the role they play going forward. If Axe ever has to go on the lamb, Taylor can slide right into his seat!

      I do think that Wendy short is going to play a role. If not, why even put it in the show? Wendy is always the thing in play between Chuck and Axe. I doubt this time will be any different.
      There is a chance the stock could recover if the scandal is revealed. But if it’s not (due to the Wendy short) then it may never recover. Chuck doesn’t know about that so it’s his unknown. If the scandal is uncovered, it still may take months for the stock to get back to break even. Most people read the headlines of a scandal, but rarely see any retractions. Also, a health scare is on the front page, a financial scandal is usually in the business section, which not everybody reads. If it takes months for the stock to rise, how is Ira going to pay his rent? Chuck was doing this for one person – Chuck. The hope that the stock would recover is just that, a hope.

      The Wendy short is going to play a role. I just wonder if Dake hates Chuck’s behavior more than Axe’s and will use it against Chuck.

      Chuck makes my skin crawl. There is not one redeeming quality in him at all in opinion. He is as dirty as anyone, but claims to have the high moral ground. He is hypocrisy squared. Axe doesn’t claim any moral high ground.

      The next episode is going to be crazy – crazy good!!

      1. Suppose Wendy never shorted the stock: Then when the scandal is made public, and people learn BFA has sabotaged ICEJ then there are obviously big headlines, and TV news, and with the Rhoadeses’ well-connectedness, a lot of buzz, that Ice Juice has the potential to recover. That is what I want to know. Becaus most people thought Chuck let his trust go away and sold out his friend and I thought Chuck was willing to do this because it would be temporary.

        Now that we know Wendy has shorted the stock, and Chuck has no idea about it, it will probably the first storyline in Season 3 and get Axe off the hook re ICEJ. Who knows they may even talk about it as soon as in the season finale… And the laugh cry will probably turn into a real cry at this point for Chuck. Because, yeah, in that case, if Chuck cannot stop Operation Dake, then there is no way he or Ira are getting their money back. WOW.

        I am thinking along the lines you are regarding Dake thanks to what he said to Axe in their meeting at Axe Capital: That hedge funds will do what they do but Chuck Rhoades reports to a higher authority, Justice. He may hate Chuck more than Axe. However, now that he is the interim USA in the Eastern District, and how brilliant Chuck’s move is there to bring him to that position, he may also want to make that seat permanent first! Yes, the season finale will be epic!

        Axe may not be claiming moral high ground. But this does not mean he is not committing crimes. And I do not want people committing crimes, even the smartest of them, to get away with that. We would never forgive a thief or a murderer because he owned his crime. And this does not mean I do not care about Axe. I DO. A LOT. And I am so curious how this season will shape him into the next.

        1. What if Chuck is willing to throw Wendy under the bus to put Axe away?

          Just as I feel it is long since past time for Axe to take responsibility for his actions and not be allowed to use the excuse of what Chuck Rhoades did, I also feel it is long since past time where Chuck should be removed from his office. His corruption is an obstacle in itself to putting Axe away and Wendy is a big part of him being compromised.

          Dake is an interesting one because he is straight laced and I think the AG will want Chuck dealt with and out of her way ASAP. Chuck is running for Governor which would mean SD needs a USA and it seems ED is also without a USA given that Dake was appointed IUSA…new characters incoming?

          1. Chuck selling out Wendy is obviously a possible scenario but I would personally doubt it.

            I completely agree with you that neither Axe nor Chuck should get away with what they have done. Well let us remember the Season 2 tagline: The Mighty will Fall. They may fall together. Can’t wait!

  2. Tipping my Mets cap back at you Lady Trader for a tremendously informative recap. The trading world is another country to me and any help in navigating the language is appreciated.

    Thoughts:
    1. I’m all in on your admiration of Taylor. My take is that they may have learned to admire strength after watching her dad get crushed by the company that “thrived”. Better to be in a position of strength than the victim is a theme with some survivors of situations that have been abusive and/or trumatic.

    2. Bryan- I can’t help but still pick up his extreme jealousy regarding those who have money and the goods that money buys. Trying to make Taylor feel bad for having what they have was yet another misstep on his part. (The southern district could use a psychologist on staff to do profiles on suspects). I’ve read posts on other sites that see him as the moral compass on the show, something I just don’t see at all. His constant look of confusion is just annoying. He has been shown to be easily manipulated and extremely slow on the uptake about what drives people, a handicap that shows him to not be equal to the task of being head of Crim. My money is on Kate.

    3. Issues Chuck Jr. will have to face after this bloody episode- pissing off his lawyer for putting him in a position that had him selling his partnership in his firm. Wendy will likely despise Chuck’s ruthlessness, perhaps thwarting their getting back together for the sake of appearances for his run for Governor . Pissing off Black Jack Foley by potential putting the spotlight back on Sandicot because…
    Dake is back! And even though he is working on bringing Axe down, Dake also despises how crookedly Chuck ran his office and his abuse of his office. Dake may have it in more for Chuck since Chuck’s office has a “higher calling.”

    I still wonder about Axe’s moment with Boyd where he saw him take a drink from the bottle. Boyd starts the conversation by saying something to the effect that he hopes everyday that there is an end to his situation. I found it curious that Axe didn’t pick up on his desperation, a desperation that would translate in Boyd doing ANYTHING to get out of his situation. I still believe Axe to be the best people reader in the room, at least that is how the writers initially presented Axe as being to the audience. I beleive Axe has something up his sleeve and perhaps there will be some triple crossing going on. I hope so, because I too am a dyed in the wool New Yorker and to be a rat is as low as it gets. Could Boyd taking the drink show that he doesn’t have to actually worry about a random drug testing because he has a protector out there? Hmmm.

    I know that this is a thought about a different episode, but Wendy and her deliberately sabotaging Axe & Lara’s relationship- I’ve read posts where people say Lara deserved it because she was being mean to Wendy. I disagree. Just like a professional boxer getting into a bar room brawl and being charged with a felony because the pro boxer’s hands are deemed deadly weapons, Wendy, as a professional, wields a deadly weapon when she zeros in on a person’s weaknesses. This isn’t just two people bickering, this is deeper and more disturbing. Chuck letting Wendy off the hook by saying she was just being human didn’t cut it for me. I think the boxer who hurts someone and the therapist who hurts someone deliberately are not much different.

    Thanks again Lady Trader for your insights. So much happens on the show and a lot gets missed by me.

    1. Thank you Madame! I love hearing that I am helping viewers understand the show a little better. And a fellow Mets fan and New Yorker too? Yay!!

      I like your observation on Taylor. I didn’t think of them not wanting to be a victim. I guess my Trekkie-ness just caused me to go Vulcan.

      I am with you 100% on Bryan. His resentment and jealousy of money and people who have it is grating. He acts like someone is stealing from him personally! I he has been manipulated by Chuck on many occasions. I find it ironic that he wants Taylor to rat out her boss, but he knows Chuck is a snake and doesn’t go buy the books, but will look the other way if it will advance him to Head of Crim. What is the difference?

      I truly hope you are correct that Chuck will be getting it from all sides. And I agree – I think Dake is way more offended by Chuck’s behavior that he is by Axe’s.

      Axe always is the smartest person in the room, and I would hope he didn’t 100% trust Boyd. But he’s been so obsessed with revenge; he could have disregarded that cautionary voice in his head. I sure do hope Axe has an ace in the hole somewhere!!

      1. I cannot help but jump in about Bryan: One does not need to steal from him personally for him to dislike you and this is the whole point of law. You fight for the rights of others who cannot advocate for their rights. Bryan had his opportunity to go to the other side, he did not. He does not want to be there, and I understand him. I would not want to be there, either. Well, he may go later, I don’t know, but I seriously don’t think so. I see law as Bryan’s calling and he will do whatever it takes to deal with white collar crime. In my opinion, Bryan Connerty is the conscience of the show on the law side of things. Besides, it was Bryan who was the one that called Dake’s office about Chuck! HE MADE THAT CALL. And that is exactly why Chuck, knowing that Bryan made the call, is keeping him, because he knows Bryan will do the right thing no matter what.

        1. A health scare will be o the front page of the NY Daily News, and people will freak. A stock scandal will be on the front page of the WSJ. Most people will remember the Daily News headline, since most people don’t read the WSJ. Also, in a country that knows more about the Brad/Angelina split than can name 3 Supreme Court Judges, it is the sensationalized story that gets the play. The stock price may get back to its previous price, but it’s going to take a long time. Wendy shorting the stock I believe changes the equation. I don’t think Chuck understands the markets well enough to think this would be temporary. I also don’t believe he cares.

          If Dake believes he can finally nail Chuck, I think he will. He basically said so the last time he saw Chuck.

          I don’t think anyone like people who commit crimes. The question has always been is Axe breaking the law. That is the question.

          I would agree with you on Bryan if he was going to Taylor regarding the law. But he uses the fact she has a nice apartment and can fly in a private jet against them. Why bring in the material things if it’s not important? That is his focus, not Taylor’s. And yes, he made the call to Dake, but when it came to giving the death blow, he chickened out. So why would Chuck know Bryan will do the right thing, when he manipulated him (dangling Head of Crim) into NOT doing it?

          1. Ok so I understand it will take time for the stock to bounce back. It makes sense. But I think, if I am capable of understanding the stock could go up, I am pretty sure Chuck is capable of that, too! I agree about Dake! We’ll see if he is a man of his word! 🙂

            I think there is a certain definition for insider trading and Axe has been doing that. I remember you also said he did insider trading on the Telecom deal in Season 1. It is one thing to debate if it should be a crime or not, it is another thing to do it knowing that it is a crime according to current law.

            I wrote about Bryan in another answer so I am not repeating it here.

          2. “I would agree with you on Bryan if he was going to Taylor regarding the law. But he uses the fact she has a nice apartment and can fly in a private jet against them. Why bring in the material things if it’s not important? That is his focus, not Taylor’s. And yes, he made the call to Dake, but when it came to giving the death blow, he chickened out. So why would Chuck know Bryan will do the right thing, when he manipulated him (dangling Head of Crim) into NOT doing it?”

            I wrote my response to the entire post, but I feel I need to respond to this in particular. Bryan brings up the apartment and the jet b/c he knows Taylor’s history as a hipster hippie liberal. He knows some ideals are important to Taylor, so he’s just reminding them of who they are. Taylor is not materialistic, but even to the most self-righteous among us, shiny new toys can sparkle enough to blind us. In mentioning the toys, Bryan is trying to show Taylor where they may have become blinded.

            Also, he did not “chicken out” when it came to dealing the death blow to Chuck. He worked it out strategically. Bryan knew that throwing his boss under the bus would have done nothing to advance his own ideals. Getting the Head of Crim job will. Chuck also worked strategically in that he knows Bryan’s adherence to ethics. He knows Bryan will let ethics drive him first and foremost and he won’t sway from that ideal, unless it makes good strategic longterm sense to do so.

            I agree, it’s a tough call. Where does well thought out strategy become outright manipulation? It’s a crazy delicate balance. Something this show is kicking ass at showing us.

        2. Bryan represents public service. There is none so unforgiving as the public who on the one hand scream “What is the law doing?” but on the other can be found cheering for the very people cheating and stealing from them…like Bobby Axelrod. Infuriating does not begin to cover it. It seems most only care when it affects them directly. Bryan’s job is to care all the time for everyone. Bryan could be sitting pretty on 7 figures right now. He chose not to be, he isn’t jealous, he is serving the public.

          I like Bryan because of his faults not in spite of them. He has had a few mistakes already himself and yet he remains in balance. He is the one struggling not to become Orrin Bach and not to become Chuck Rhoades (in terms of corruption of different sides) I know what I want him to do now. He has distanced himself from 4 people who have the potential to make things very difficult for him. He has no mentors after all.

          As for Taylor, he wasn’t at all trying to make them feel bad about what they have, but about what they will be doing to keep it (Axe Capital, enough said). It was an attempt to appeal to morals. It failed but it would be worse if he hadn’t tried. We see from Taylor’s background that should resonate but, unless Taylor is playing a long undercover game, it seems the money is already corrupting.

          1. Since I come from the view point of knowing and seeing that especially when it comes to Wall Street, the “law’ does not seem to apply. The DA’s and the SEC are not about caring for the little guy; they are in it to make a name for themselves, so then they can either move on to higher office or go into a private practice to make a crap load of money. They go after “insider trading” when even the Supreme Court hasn’t been able to define what that exactly is. You can say that Wall Street is greedy for profits, but these so called public servants have a different greed – the need to always promote themselves. And, yes Axe does “cheat” to win. But I’m OK with that. My choice. I don’t believe he is stealing from anyone.

            I believe Bryan isn’t sitting on 7 figures right now not because he doesn’t want to, it’s because he doesn’t think he deserves it. He feels that just because he came from a certain working class he needs to stay there. He feels like he can only be “fighting for the little guy” if he is one himself. Maybe he’s not jealous of other people’s wealth, but he sure is resentful. He has even shown that side to Kate. It’s sad. And if he was really “serving his public” then why didn’t he go through and give Dake the goods on Chuck? Does it serve the public to have a US Attorney who behaves the way that Chuck does? No, it doesn’t but it served Bryan, since he is angling for Head of Crim.

            Bryan was totally trying to tell Taylor that just because they have nice things now, they are losing their “soul”. How lame. He is trying to place his “morals” on to someone else.That is a mistake so many people make today. Everyone’s morals are different. I think gambling is fine, others don’t. Does that make me morally bankrupt? No, of course not. But I’ve been told that by people who don’t like gambling.

            And why is money “corrupting”? Taylor found an actual reason to short Klaxon. The financing of the auto company was suspect. They did not know a thing about the Victor/Dollar Bill connection. Their boss asked them to look at a company and find a flaw. They did, and were rewarded for it. It wasn’t “I’ll make you head of research if you find a flaw”, which then you can maybe have a case of Taylor being corrupted.

          2. Axe’s stealing isn’t limited to money.

            Bryan was certainly resentful in season 1, but I don’t detect that in season 2.

            I dislike Chuck and it does not help having a USA like him. Again, this is why I like Bryan, it is all up in the air with him. The strength of character will arrive once he makes a full decision. I can’t decide if I am looking forward to it or dreading it. Dake, Orrin, Axe and Chuck, he has distanced/alienated himself from them all this season.

            That is not how I see it all. IMO He was coming at it from the pov of where they work and knowing what Axe will ask of them that goes beyond insider trading. He has seen it himself what Axe is capable of.

            Taylor is more than smart enough to to know why Axe wanted a short when others had looked at it and said the numbers said go long.

          3. Koppelman and Levien commented on the perceptions of the “other side” both from the law side and the finance side so I know that you all do not like each other. I am obviously an outsider. And I do think both sides have good apples and bad apples. I don’t think either Axe or Chuck is a good apple. And that is bringing all the juice to the show.

            Regarding Bryan. Billions, while I am writing this comment here, is having a FYC Emmy Panel and Brian Koppelman just talked about the Bryan – Taylor scene in Episode 11 as one where Bryan stands in for the audience and asking the questions they may ask. This is EXACTLY how I feel about that scene. If I were there, I would definitely ask the same questions to Taylor. Bryan may be resentful but I think Axe is even more resentful about people that did him wrong when he was young (like Eads Family). Axe and Bryan are not very different in that sense. And if you choose to think Axe cheating to win is okay, I am choosing that Bryan is the conscience of the law side in this show. He could have had 7 figures and he did not want it. And I completely understand that like you understand Axe.

            And I don’t think Taylor found a reason to short Klaxon. They saw through Axe. They knew Axe had “insider information” on Klaxon and openly said that they assumed Axe has some “other” reasons to short the company. Taylor just wrote that report and put their signature on it as a justification for Axe to short Klaxon. They are not shorting it because of the report, they are shorting it because of the shredded papers Victor put together and gave to Axe. Taylor did not do it to be rewarded but did it knowing that Axe had “more information” on Klaxon.

  3. Yes, I too, would have loved to see something on the floor of the NYSE or at the NASDAQ in a scene or two.

    You are so right about the striking difference between season 1 and season 2: Axe goes to people he wouldn’t normally trust because he’s so consumed with the kill. Very sloppy indeed.

    I don’t know why people root for Chuck either because he’s supposed to play clean as a lawman. I’m Black Swan all the way baby! #TeamBlackSwan #TeamShark #TeamAxe

    Why I’m #TeamAxe: The cop is using tactics of a thief and pretending to be clean whereas the thief knows he’s a thief and owns it! #Billions

    1. Hi Krista!

      You and I are always #TeamAxe, no matter what!

      It seems like season 1 had Axe on top, and Chuck always playing catch up. Season 2 seems to have reversed that. Season 3 might just be the deciding season.

      You and I both hate Chuck’s hypocrisy and admire that Axe does what he does with out trying to claim a moral high ground.

      Let’s hope our boy can get out of this one!

      1. Yes, Axe always is the smartest person in the room, but I think he didn’t hear that cautionary voice in his head because he didn’t have his Wendy all season. I think he’s much more clouded without bouncing things off of her, even if it’s not related to the topic/moves he’s up to. No Wendy. No meditation. Our Terminator is short-circuiting I’m afraid. Crossing fingers he has another play in mind, Like Madame said, “triple crossing.” Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Axe did read Boyd’s body language and saw through him, only for Axe to call Dake himself and tell Dake what he’s going to do to lure the corrupt ADA Chuck in? And that’s why Dake agreed to come back without hesitation? Wouldn’t that be fantastic if Axe was in on #OperationDake? Who knows!

        1. I mean…won’t Dake think what Chuck did was, if not entrapment, unethical? How could straight-nosed Dake agree to that play? I keep coming back to that question.

          1. I agree with you Krista. It’s all going to depend on who Dake wants to take down – Chuck or Axe. I still think Wendy getting in on the short is going to come to play.

  4. Thanks Lady Trader for the fin analysis. Another Bryan supporter here. He has those squat bulldog lines and is not going to let go of his bone (of contention) with miss androgynous They Zen Master, who has Bobby and everyone hanging on her every word. To everyone: Never touch any “swamp juice”. = Or at least not until Finale#12 is done//

    What is the sound of one hand clapping? You after ep#12.

  5. Glad you pointed out that the ICEJ shares would have been hard to borrow on Day 1. If that weren’t the case I would have shorted SNAP on Day 1. Another thing I noticed was that everyone in the episode monitored the trading of ICEJ at the market open. I have NEVER seen an IPO open at 9:30 but I guess for episodic structure and drama the audience couldn’t be kept waiting for 10:30 or 11am to roll around.

    1. Thanks! I just couldn’t let that one go by. And you are 100% correct – no IPO opens at the bell. But I do get that the main purpose of the show is to tell a story, so they can’t always get everything right in regards to timing.

      1. And there is always the “fiction” element there to make it as thrilling as possible. Still, I am not an expert and you are and given your take on the show, I applaud Billions for being as authentic as possible both in the law side and the finance side.

  6. Here is a good story on the shorting and anti-shorting of Herbalife by battling hedge fund guys out to reap millions by screwing each other’s positions. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/financiers-fight-over-the-american-dream

    With The New Yorker Magazine open up in an Incognito|Private window in Chrome|Firefox if you are over the free limit this month. Works for me!

    Seems to me Herbalife is 90% an affinity scam where you convince fellow church members to go in on it with you. Meaning they become a distributor (actually an Herbalife consumer) under you.

    1. The HLF story has been playing out for about 3 years now. Ackman got sloppy and let his short of the name get personal. He telegraphed he was short, and since he is not well liked on the Street, Ichan and others squeezed him something awful. It was a think of beauty. In an earlier post, I even linked the CNBC video of Uncle Carl sticking it to Ackman.

      Ackman’s take all along has been that HLF is a pyramid scheme. But, even the FTC has given up on trying to find anything.

  7. Fascinating exchange of ideas! Thanks to all of you for the lessons learned and the fun speculation of where Billions will be taking us next.

    1. Thank you Lynda. One of the things we all love about Billions is how much this show makes us think. This show has caused some real great discussions on the blog, and it’s so much FUN!

      1. Absolutely! I cannot believe the intensity and the diversity of the ideas shared here. Billions does a brilliant job in making us think about these characters that we are certainly invested in and their motivations. And since what is happening in the show is a very close approximation of real world that we are living in, it is inevitable that we all bring our world views out.

  8. It looks like from the comments from everyone, we have picked sides! When a show can get so many people invested in the characters, then that’s a damn good show.

    I know I come to this with such a unique point of view, a view that many here don’t get. But, this world of Wall Street has been my world since 1988! And shady characters who are “flexible” (Damian used that term in an interview and I thought it was brilliant) with the law have always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember (having a bookie for a Grandfather will do that). I know that is why I’m OK with most of the things Axe does.

    I do enjoy reading everyone else’s points and observations. It may not change my mind, but it does make me think!

    1. Absolutely. I love it that everyone owns her opinion, too; and I believe everyone’s opinion makes other think which is marvellous — yes it is the show’s brilliance, no question! Show creators should take a look at this, they would be proud. You are right, our experiences definitely shape us, and give us a perspective.

    2. Absolutely. I love it that everyone owns her opinion, too; and I believe everyone’s opinion makes others think which is marvelous — yes it is the show’s brilliance, no question! Show creators should take a look at this, they would be proud. You are right, our experiences definitely shape us, and give us a perspective.

  9. If the justice = law then it is not about standing up for the little guy, leveling playing fields, caring, or protecting rights. That is the job, in the USA, of the elected legislature. Justice is, ideally, blind.

  10. Wow, try as I might to catch up on the discussion here, not finding anything more I can contribute. Great post, and great to see you get a running start on the Star Trek connections! 🙂 (more on that later for our lovely readers).

    You know what I was thinking? That what Axe did could have been much worse: he could’ve spiked the punch widely and sent the bug out to all consumers instead of targeting (aka leveraging) only a few victims. Would that have made what he did not okay? I don’t know. Stuff like this happened with Tylenol in the 80’s, and, as they mentioned in the show: Chipotle, more recently. The public’s memory is short though. So even if the health scare was more “above the fold” than the financial news, Ice Juice merely has to re-package or re-brand and they’re back to business. Will Axe be able to re-package and re-brand himself? Most likely, yet. We liberals often react immediately with derision to the idea that a corporation is a person, a person is a corporation. This show, gosh darn it, is SHOWING this idea in brilliant technicolor. Axe, when he’s Axe Capital, is not human at all, and doesn’t need to be.

    As for Bryan: He was offered money, he was offered an opportunity, more than once, to go over to the other side. If he were really driven by jealousy of the rich folk would he not have taken that bait? I think using the word “jeolousy” is a bit of a weak stick to beat a character with. Motivations are often more complicated. He’s an idealist. He’s not confused or bewildered by the way Axe and Taylor et al behave. He sees it very clearly. But he wears rose-colored glasses when he sees the world he wants to live in. It doesn’t exist, but he sees it. So, yes, he is the moral compass here. Wendy is too, but in an even more complicated way. She’s making money, she’s got a horse in the race too, but she also holds on to an ideal morality, that maybe even she knows doesn’t exist, but she can’t help seeing and holding on to.

    In the long run (and this is the biggest stretch for the practical minded among us), it’s the folks who see and envision the way things “could” be who come up with the creative ideas that become the money-makers, which in turn feed people like Axe. Without people like Bryan (and to a lesser extent Wendy) there would be no Ice Juice or Apple or Microsoft or Amazon. 😀

  11. This is why Kate is my pick for being the closest ( I don’t see ANYONE here being a moral compass because each character has exhibited lapses in morality) center. She, as far as I can remember , has not been bamboozled, has amazing connections (Bryan seems to have no friends or real connections to speak of) , is an amazingly quick learner and ambitious because she has confidence in her intelligence. And she is not emotionally charged with what is right or wrong- a deep flaw, in my opinion, of Bryan. A flaw as a professional. In folks who are not hired to uphold the law, this is a warranted. But it is what makes professionals sloppy in their work. To me, he is a liability to the office. But I am in the minority when it comes to Bryan. I’ve even been censored on my take of him elsewhere, even when I wrote about him politely. Some people may see themselves in Bryan. I see myself more in Kate. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. This is why it’s an interesting show. It hasn’t appeared preachy so far. It gives the audience a right to make their own summations.

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