The new documentary film The China Hustle begins amid the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, when we meet protagonist Dan David and a band of Wall Street outsiders. These detective-like investors operate on the fringes of the financial world, scouring global markets for money making opportunities. With the U.S. economy and markets in a tailspin, they turn to China, where there is what seems like a modern day gold rush. Chinese stock market indexes are doubling every year and the potential seems endless.
There’s one problem, though: U.S. investors can’t participate because they are barred from investing directly in Chinese markets. But this is America, and people always find a way. A few Wall Street operators create a novel solution by bringing hundreds of promising Chinese companies directly to U.S. stock markets. All of the sudden, US investors can get in on the Chinese miracle, without leaving the comforting confines of the NYSE and the NASDAQ.
It all seems to be going well, until detectives discover that most of the companies they’re investing in are frauds, producing phony balance sheets, claiming sham inventory levels and celebrating non-existent profits. The investors flip their strategy on its head and begin to master the art of short selling - essentially, betting that a company will fail.
With the help of a team of Chinese researchers who risk their freedom to uncover the truth behind these fake companies, the investors discover the frauds and bet against them in the market.
There are no good guys in this story. But there are a few people who are sick of a financial system built on lies. The China Hustle follows their story through Wall Street, China and your retirement savings to uncover the biggest heist you’ve never heard of, and to challenge all of us to wake up and demand accountability and transparency in our markets before it’s too late.
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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.