“From the Trader’s Desk”: Man the Torpedoes! Billions S7E5 “The Gulag Archipelago”

How I lied, went to hide,
How I tried to get away from you, now,
Am I right, if I fight?
That I might just get away from you, now
Megalomania – Black Sabbath


Welcome to the condensed version of “From the Trader’s Desk”! I will be heading out of a business/mini vacation trip mid-week, so my thoughts are going to be quick and dirty as they say!

I chose lyrics from a song on Black Sabbath’s sixth studio album, Sabotage, since it seemed fitting. Taylor has decided to join the fight to stop Mike Prince, so they are right to fight!

I really want to focus on Taylor and their brilliant move in dinging the good ship Prince, so just a few thoughts first.

I do not think for one second that Chuck helped Ira get his phone back purely out of friendship. Chuck never does anything for anyone unless it advances his own agenda. There may have been 5% friendship in his motivation, but I’m being generous. We know when he sets his site on whichever white whale he is after, he doesn’t care who he harms in the process. He threw Ira and his Dad under the bus in the Ice Juice caper, and in his focus to get Jock Jeffcoat, he abandoned Wendy to the point where that was the straw that cause their divorce.

I think we were all happy to see Bryan make a comeback to Billions. He was a popular pick in our “Our Top 3 Billions Characters We’d Love to See Return” post so points to everyone who chose him. I was surprised to see him as a Teppanyaki chef, but I think his days of volcanic onions may be coming to an end. I do think Kate will help get his law license back, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to be a fly in her Senate run anointment.

Wendy and Bradford seemed quite cozy together discussing Prince. Do I think Wendy is going to tell Bradford exactly what she thinks? Hell no! She is playing the loyalty role so well. Even making sure she got permission to talk to Bradford from Prince was a brilliant, calculated move. Prince trusts she’s all in on the “Prince POTUS” train, which I guess is the reason why he throws a computer through her glass wall when he finds out she really isn’t.

And now, let’s talk about Torpedo Taylor….

In a pitch meeting, everyone’s ideas are getting shut down. It’s not because they are bad ideas, it’s because Prince has put a $500M limit on deals Taylor and Philip can approve. The MPC traders are smart; they know what is going on. And that is not good for Taylor and Philip. What kind of message does it send to the traders? Are Taylor and Philip really running the show if they are being constrained in this way? One thing that deal makers don’t like is uncertainty and hesitation. By limiting the dollar amount on deals Taylor and Philip can approve, Prince is creating a bottleneck, and in the hedge fund business, time is money.

I think this shows that Prince doesn’t either trust Taylor and Philp, is a serious control freak, or a bit of both. When Taylor and Philip try to explain how this approval structure could hurt MPC, which would in turn hurt Prince, he basically dismisses them. There should be no issue because Prince says he is always reachable and if not, Scooter has sign off approval (oh the foreshadowing!). Taylor and Philip must be like the great Mike Prince and make it work somehow. We get another eye-rolling yarn about how Prince started his first business with two cans and some string (that’s not exactly what he said, but you get the picture). If he could be successful with nothing, they should have no issues with a $500M cap.

In my view, it’s not the dollar amount cap that is the issue, it’s the cap itself. If your leaders really don’t have the power to make the big decisions, why should anyone follow them? Putting that kind of limitation on the supposed decision makers will certainly have the traders questioning who is in charge, and where they should really bring their ideas to. It undermines Taylor and Philip to the whole firm. Axe tried to do this to Taylor back in Season 4, and it didn’t work out well for him. We know this is not going to work out well for Prince either.

Dollar Bill coming in with that helium play is classic Dollar Bill. Since the Titan Industries investment is under the cap Taylor can approve it, and it’s a possible profit of 10x investment, so it’s a yea. But Taylor wants to go bigger. They task Rian to find an angle that might have been missed.

Rian comes back with a soon to be IPOd start-up with helium extraction technology that would compliment the Titan play. Taylor has gotten Spartan Ives to hold a spot on the offer for MPC. Big IPOs (of which there have not been many in the last few years) are not easy to get in on. You need to get shares through one of the investment banks that are bringing the deal to market. The catch here is that the price tag is $634M, can’t be shared with another fund, and is only good for one hour. They will have to get Prince’s approval.

But, lo and behold, Prince and Scooter are unreachable (see that foreshadowing!). Getting an endorsement at a listening party from a rapper I guess is much more important than making money for Prince. Could you ever see Axe being in a situation like this? No fucking way. This is just another stark difference between these two men. Axe Capital was Bobby’s blood and oxygen. For Prince, I think this firm is just another thing to fill his humungous ego. Add this to the list of reasons I really can’t stand him.

Victor gets the team another hour from Spartan Ives, but it’s not enough. Time runs out before Prince and Scooter get their phones back (I still don’t understand why they had to give up their phones in the first place, and why they would agree to it) and see about a billion missed calls, texts, and voicemails. This was a very expensive listening party as it just cost MPC $1.4B in possible profits. The cost of what this will do to the moral of the Prince Cappers is unmeasurable. A loss like this, and the way it went down could cause some of the traders to question what type of commitment Prince has to the firm now that his eye is on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At Axe Capital, earning and making money was the be all, end all, and that is the way they liked it. What is the focus of MPC? Earning or votes?

When Heckle and Jeckle finally get back to the office, instead of taking responsibility for their error, they throw it back on Taylor and Philip. They should have made it work somehow because the amazing Mike Prince would have! What an idiot! He set the parameters for something exactly like this to happen and instead of saying “my bad” he throws his employees under the bus? After the day they had? He truly does not deserve any of this staff.

But this was Taylor’s plan all along! After speaking with Wendy and realizing she was no closer to firming up a plan to take Prince out, Taylor decided to act. And unlike impulsive Wags, Taylor’s plan will achieve their goal, and have possible unintended consequences.

It was a risky plan, but I’m sure Taylor knew the odds even before they set it in motion. Once they got the info on the IPO from Rian, they got to work. Taylor got the original firm who was getting the $634M piece to pull out of the IPO by planting doubts about the deal. They then leaked to Sparta Ives that “Candidate Prince” would like a taste of the deal. It would have been good to let Wags and Wendy in on the plan, if only to protect Taylor if need be. Taylor needed to do this alone. They are the stealthy assassin! I don’t think Taylor expected Wags to get full sign-off, but it’s a big plus and will most likely come in hand down the road. This plan was a win-win because even if Prince had given approval, the firm would have made $1.4B. There was little downside in this magnificent plan. Taylor has been one of my favorite characters since they first set foot at Axe Cap, and nothing has changed. Always seeing the bigger picture is their specialty.

As Hannibal Smith used to say: “I love it when a plan comes together!” and I just can’t wait for these 3 co-conspirators to send Prince to Siberia. Fitting that in the next episode, they may have a familiar Russian’s help with that!




Author: Lady Trader

"Lady Trader" is a Brooklyn girl, and a Wall Street lifer! Recently fought cancer, and won! I love heavy metal, history, sci-fi, oh, and blogging about Billions and it's great lead actor, Damian Lewis!

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