This is the battleground of the modern world, where war is waged
daily. Fortunes are made or lost in seconds. These are the men and
women of Gardner/Ross. They're brilliant, ruthless, only as good as
their next deal...They work hard and play harder and agree on just
one thing winning is everything."
From this promo for Traders, a Canadian program now being shown
on cable's Lifetime network, one would think that it would be
another typical TV caricature of business: A world dominated by
rogue greedheads who have no redeeming qualities and whose work does
nothing beneficial for society.
While this tendency is present in the show, it doesn't always
dominate. Traders instead treats investment banking the way
television usually treats some other vocations, which is a step
above the way business is normally portrayed. Traders focuses on the
Torontobased investment firm Gardner/Ross. The plots center on the
firm's senior executives:
Sally Ross -- An idealistic economics professor, Ross
steps into her father's role as senior partner when he is arrested
for illegally skimming $5 million off of a $47 million deal. She
is immediately at odds with the firm's other senior executives,
who want to make money at all costs. She wants to make money, but
also wants to preserve her family firm's good name. When she
doesn't allow the firm's head trader to trade on inside
information, he yells: "You know, you've got a really unhealthy
sense of morality."
Adam Cunningham -- Ross's alter ego, Cunningham is
willing to blackmail government officials to land a deal. He has
no conscience, but a great knack for cliches: Investment banking
is a "zerosum game. Nobody wins unless somebody loses" and "We all
know the game. You buy on rumor, you sell on fact. Look, if enough
people believe that fertilizer is worth more than gold, the next
thing you know crap is selling at $600 an ounce." When the Russian
mob threatens the family of the editor of the firm's newsletter,
Cunningham worries that the editor will care more about her family
than the firm.
Jack Larkin -- A very hungry young trader, he makes
his way to Gardner/Ross by landing a seatofthepants mining deal.
He's willing to risk everything for a big deal, but he's no
Cunningham. He cares deeply about mending his poor relationship
with his father, and his father's illness occupies as much of his
time as does the firm's business. It also gives him some
perspective. When a young trader almost ruins her career by not
placing an order out of concern for a client who is a compulsive
gambler, Larkin tells her: "I'll deny I ever said this, but it's
just a job; it's just money." By steering the firm into investing
in an emerging medical drug, Larkin shows viewers that investment
banking can help society.
Marty Stephens -- The firm's head trader, Stephens is
a younger Cunningham. When the firm's building catches fire, he
threatens to fire any trader who leaves the floor. Is extensive
flooding in South Africa bad news? Not for Stephens, because the
firm will make money from the flood's effect on the markets. His
family life is a mess: He doesn't know the name of his son's
girlfriend, even though she eats dinner with the family every
week. When Stephens is suspended for 30 days because of unethical
trades, his life seems to change. He finds a support group and
learns that he is obsessed with money to compensate for his own
insecurities. He resolves to change his ways, but once he's back
on the floor the old Marty returns.
Suzanna Marks -- Marks runs the firm's investment
newsletter. She becomes the target of the Russian mob, which wants
her to recommend a stock she doesn't want to recommend. She stands
on principle, refusing to compromise her integrity. The Russians
then threaten her family, including her young daughter. Though
terribly tempted, she still doesn't cave. The situation is
resolved when Larkin, whom viewers learn has some mysterious tie
to the Russian mob, finds out about the threats and intervenes.
The stress, though, ruins her family life. Her husband, believing
she places too great a priority on work, files for divorce and
custody of their daughter.
Traders has often been compared to ER, but it is more like L.A.
Law. On ER, there is no question that the doctors are engaged in
noble work. On L.A. Law, sometimes the lawyers helped people and
society; sometimes they harmed people and society. Some of L.A.
Law's lawyers were extremely unethical, some morally upright.
Traders' traders are a similar mix. For business, as portrayed on
television, this is a step up in the world.