Imaginary Riches

Here’s some advice: if you can’t find it, don’t buy it

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The China Hustle
RPL Film Theatre

March 30 –April 3

In days when it’s increasingly hard to deny the presence of dark forces in the world’s markets comes a documentary from the guy who already gave us Enron and Zero Days that gives us something else to worry about. The China Hustle brings a massive scam fueled by greed to our attention — and this one could affect your retirement fund.

After the 2008 mortgage crisis, investors were desperate to recover their losses. With the markets down in the Western World, China looked highly desirable. Ongoing growth, massive profits — what’s not to love? It felt like another gold rush.

Chinese businesses were allowed to trade on Wall Street using American shell companies, just to keep the green rolling. It was a mutually beneficial move, until questions regarding the financial health and the existence of these entities started to emerge.

A very tardy due diligence revealed that investors were not only grossly misled, they had no legal rights against the fraudsters. China takes care of their own.

The central figure in this piece never intended to become one. Dan David, a financial adviser who found himself doing business with China, peered behind the curtain and found a pyramid scheme. Chinese companies that looked to be on the rise were at best much smaller than advertised. What’s an investor to do? Sell the stock before the truth comes out and stick others with the bill. (Told you, not the hero type.)

Research-wise, The China Hustle is very strong. The film does its best to overcome the subject’s dryness and at times succeeds but the volume of information eventually becomes overwhelming. This is not to say it’s not important: the documentary makes a strong case for more regulation, not less (as the Trump administration has been peddling).