JEREMY IRONS SHORTED BY TRADER AT MARGIN CALL’S RISKY PREMIERE

TO LEICESTER Square for the premiere of Margin Call, the film set in the last days of an over-leveraged investment bank that has “no relation” to any actual financial institution that went to the wall in 2008.

Just as well – because Jeremy Irons, who plays the bank’s pragmatic CEO John Tuld, would have had no time to shadow Lehman’s former boss Dick Fuld for the role anyway, as the US Embassy only approved his visa the day before filming started.

“I wasn’t able to meet anybody who my character was loosely based on,” Irons told the premiere audience in a Q&A with co-star Paul Bettany after the screening. “But I did read The Big Short by Michael Lewis – well, two-thirds, anyway.”

If only he had finished it. As Irons’ luck would have it, sitting in the front row was Neil O’Neil, a former London Stock Exchange trader who decided to test the Hollywood actor’s grasp of financial terms. “Do you understand what a margin call is?” demanded the City veteran, who started trading on Black Monday on 19 October 1987. “Margin call is a very technical term; as I saw it, this was more of a junk bond issue.”

“A margin call is the amount of money a bank has to lodge with the stock exchange at the end of each day to cover its overnight exposure,” lectured O’Neil to heckles from the audience. “But not once was it mentioned in the script.”

“Banking at its best is an enormous help to society,” soothed the newly capitalist Irons, before running for the door. “I couldn’t have bought my first house without a banker.”

HAPPINESS INDEX
YESTERDAY’S story on stockbroker Wills & Co’s residence at 33 Queen Street (The Capitalist, 09 January) reminded one nostalgic fund manager of the “happy days” he spent working in the same building for Thornton Investment Management.

The fund’s happiness index between 1994 and 1997, recalls the mole, was lifted by the “disproportionate amount of time” he and his colleagues spent in The Vintry, the pub on the corner that has since moved further east to Cannon Street.

“Sometimes we went five days a week, rather worryingly,” he tells The Capitalist – although no such concerns at the pub’s owner Fullers, as the excess of time was matched by generous spends at the bar, making The Vintry the then most profitable pub, “on a revenue per square foot basis”, in the brewer’s entire stable. Happy days indeed.

PARKLIFE
THE CITY of London is still waiting to receive a planning application for the London River Park development, which is currently being redesigned after being sent back to the drawing board by the Port of London Authority.

When developer Mace does come up with the goods however, The Capitalist hears the City of London has some further demands of its own before it will give the £60m scheme planning approval, as decided at yesterday’s meeting of the planning and transportation committee led by chairman Martin Farr.

Things for Mace and the scheme’s backers Venus Group to bear in mind as they rethink the controversial plans include installing bridge impact protection for all relevant piers, and carrying out six-monthly surveys of the riverbed. Scour holes, if the erosion occurs at any of the bridge structures, must be filled in “in agreement with the City”.

OFFICE POLITICS
AS FORMER KPMG policy head Neil Sherlock starts as Nick Clegg’s adviser in London, across the Atlantic president Barack Obama has turned to an-ex-Citi banker for the latest appointment as his right-hand man.

Jack Lew, who ran Citigroup Alternative Investments in 2008, has been named as Obama’s new chief of staff, replacing ex-JP Morgan Chase banker William Daley, who returns to his hometown of Chicago after just 361 days in the job.

Lew, who has a reputation as a quiet and bookish man, has been promoted from managing the White House balance sheets in the office of management and budget – a position he also held from 1998 to 2001 under the Clinton administration.

RUGBY TACKLE
THE PLAYERS’ schedule on the British & Irish Lions’ anniversary tour next year is a busy one, says Lions chief executive John Feehan. “They will need to be well-turned out at all times.”

That box, at least, has been ticked by shirtmaker Thomas Pink, part of the luxury Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy conglomerate, which was yesterday unveiled as the official outfitter for the Lions as they prepare to “do their best” in Australia and Hong Kong in 2013. Items from the official Lions range (as presented, left, by former Lion Richard Hill) will be in Thomas Pink stores from October this year.