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Case Number 27114: Small Claims Court

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To Catch a Trader

PBS // 2014 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // March 21st, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas has a tip on a hot stock. Jelly beans are about to go through the roof.

The Charge

The largest insider trader scandal in U.S. History.

The Case

Have you seen Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street? Take that movie, lop off two hours, take away all of the sex, drugs and parties, toss in some Will Lyman narration and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from To Catch a Trader. As is often the case with the best Frontline specials, this one digs into an important subject with clarity, depth and precision, revealing another corner of Wall Street's endless corruption and providing viewers with a detailed examination of insider trading.

The most remarkable thing about To Catch a Trader is fact that all of its participants—wall street power players, news analysts, government officials—have come to terms with the fact that insider trading is everywhere and is a tremendously important part of life on wall street. Despite the fact that it's, y'know, illegal, stock brokers and hedge fund employees discuss the existence of this valuable information (known in the business as "edge") freely and without caution. The corruption is so widespread that the entire system would have to be dismantled to remove it, but the government nonetheless continues to take down some of the big fish who engage in such activities most gratuitously and obviously.

The central figure of the special is Steven A. Cohen, one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the country. His business—SAC Capital—has a reputation for two things: engaging in an obscene amount of insider trading, and earning an equally obscene amount of money. It's more or less accepted that if you want a job at the company, you need to be bringing some sort of valuable info to the table. For years, Cohen managed to keep his hands just clean enough to prevent himself from being nailed by the feds, but eventually made a handful of crucial mistakes and found himself in hot water. In a just world, this special would detail his downfall and the start of a new day on Wall Street. In the world we've got, it's the story of Cohen suffering some relatively minor consequences and being permitted to continue doing what he does.

To Catch a Trader has received a solid 1.78:1 transfer which does the job well enough. This is largely a talking heads piece, so stunning visual detail isn't really a necessity, but what's here is basically a typical standard-def TV transfer. Ditto for the Dolby 2.0 Stereo track, which just offers a bit of nervous underscore to accompany the dialogue. No supplements are included.

As is often the case with hour-long Frontline specials, one imagines that there's a good deal more material to be explored which had to be left out for time purposes, but To Catch a Trader is a stellar snapshot of a troubling subject. Recommended.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2014
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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