A pair of junior traders, Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley) and Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) watches as a group of people walk past them after a mass layoff, senior trader Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) tells them to ignore them and get to work. An employee named Timothy Sing is asked by HR rep Heather Burke (Ashley Williams) to meet with her. She then mistakes Peter for his supervisor Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). He informs her that Eric is his boss and in his office. She asks Eric Dale to meet her privately. He walks over to the conference room as Seth, Peter and Will try to ignore what they know is happening around them.
Eric is in risk management and has worked for the company for 19 years, but he is told he will be let go. He will get 6 months at half pay, his vested interests, health benefits, and has till tomorrow to accept the package they offer, or it will be revoked. He is given paper work for his early retirement. Eric pauses and looks disheartened over his losing a job. Will talks to him and he lets him know he would have helped him if he could have. Eric asks point blank if it was someone who had it in for him; he deduces it must have been Sarah Robinson. Eric tells Will that there is some serious business that someone needs to look at. Will says it is no longer his concern. He walks out with a security guard and sees Seth and Peter; he says they will be fine for now. Peter thanks Eric for being someone he could come to, he then hands Peter a USB drive and tells him to check it out but to be very careful. Eric calls a number but his phone has been deactivated already. He sees the head of Risk Management, Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore), and curses at her for turning off his phone, he then smashes it and walks off.
Will talks to Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), he knows it will get worse. He asks for a nicotine patch, but he notices that Sam is not looking well. Sam says his dog is dying, she has a tumor on her liver, and she will have to be put down. Will has 33 people still working for him, and Sam will speak to them. He tells them that 80% were let go, but those who remain are the best, and it is now their opportunity to shine. He tells them to see it as an opportunity; they are survivors, and that is how they will continue to shine.
At the end of the day, Seth asks Peter to join them for drinks. He tells Seth he will join them later but has some work to finish. He plays some music on his iPod and looks at the data on the flash drive. Sam is driving to the vet and comforts his ailing dog and is visibly distressed. Peter is working late and writing numbers on a notepad; suddenly he notices something and calls a number but it is disconnected. He then calls Seth, who is at a noisy bar enjoying drinks. He asks if Will is with him and wants them to come back to the office. He says they need to get there quickly. Will and Seth join Peter; he tells them about the file Eric gave them. Eric was tracking their securities and discovered they had exceeded their levels of volatility based on historic patterns. They notice it does not look right; their Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) have decreased by 25%, and at that rate the losses will exceed the value of the company. They need to contact Eric to verify the data, yet when they try his house he is not home. Will says he can be found somewhere else and will get them a car to drive them. Will decides to call Sam even though it is already after 11 in the evening.
Will calls Sam. He says he needs to get to the office to show him the data. Will advises him that emailing it would be a terrible idea. Peter and Seth are in a company car, and comment about how the people around them do not understand what is going on, and how it will affect them. Seth mentions he made a quarter million for pushing numbers and that the people they work with are glorified crack addicts, he does not see how he is any different from a racetrack. Will texts them to see if they found Eric yet. Sam arrives and talks to Will. He gives him the story so far. He tells him how he warned him to be careful after giving him the flash drive. The historic volatility has exceeded the limits. They have broken through for the past 5 days, and it does not look good. He shows him some screens with graphs and Sam asks for Eric. Seth and Peter are sitting in a strip club bar wondering how much the strippers make. Will calls them, but they tell him Eric has not been there. They head back to the office.
Seth asks Peter how much Sam Rogers makes a year. Will alone made 2.5 million last year. They head back to the office and meet with Sam and Will in the elevator. Sam tells Peter they are going to get a second opinion on his work. They meet with Sarah Robertson, Ramesh Shah (Aasif Mandvi) and Jared Cohen (Simon Baker). They ask about Eric but are reminded he was canned, the only ones left in Risk Assessment are Seth and Peter. Sam tells him about the info Peter put together. Sarah asks if it is his work. Sarah then asks about his background, and he gives them his bio; he went to MIT and earned a PhD in Engineering. They all look at him and wonder why he works for a brokerage firm, and not NASA. Peters states that it is all numbers, and the money was better there. It is 2:15 AM, Sarah states they need time to look over the data but Peter is correct. Jared asks how long it would take Sam and his folks to clear it out. He is told it will take weeks, but if they stop buying it will be noticed. They have 60 traders left. Jared walks out for a moment and then comes back into the meeting. They argue with Jared, but he does not want to hear what Sam has to say with others around. Jared asks for Eric Dale, but he is told they turned off his phone, and he cannot be reached. Peter, Seth and Will step out. Will tells him about Jared; he is Sam’s boss and is a ruthless business man who is not to be messed with or taken lightly. Will says it does not look good at all. Sam tells Jared they cannot stop buying, but Jared keeps ignoring their concerns. Sarah and Shah leave the meeting. Sam then asks Jared if he will call him. He already has.
Will, Peter, and Seth go up to the roof. Will lights a cigarette. Will looks like he might jump, and the guys stop him as he steps back. He plays it off as a dark joke, but he says they have done some crazy stuff in his ten years. He tells Seth and Peter the company will dump the toxic assets on others. They will not lose money, but others surely will. They ask Will about the money he made and how he spends it so quickly; half for taxes, 300k for his place, 150k to his folks, 150K on a car, 75k on quality dining, 50k on clothes, and 400k in rainy day savings and the rest on hookers, booze and gambling. A helicopter arrives and startles them as it lands on the roof.
Sarah comes back in. The numbers are legit and 8 trillion is riding on what may be broken equations and corrupt data. Jared contacted the CEO, John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). He is told by Sarah they have no contingency plan for Tuld and the market. Jared’s phone buzzes; Tuld has arrived. Sarah and Jared go to meet with Tuld. They are met by the trio from the roof. Jared tells them to tell the truth and not to bullshit the CEO. The whole board of senior investors are present at the meeting when Tuld walks in, he apologizes to them, and asks if anyone knows what is going on. Jared begins to speak but is stopped by Tuld. He then asks for Peter Sullivan to fill him in simply and honestly. Peter tells Tuld he works for the Risk Assessment and Management Dept, over the last 36-40 months they have packaged a series of MBS securities into one tradable commodity. It is quite profitable, but it takes a month to layer the products; they have to hold assets longer than they want, and they are based on mortgages and the risk is elevated. Tuld has noted the bumpy road and asks if it is going terrible. He is told they are already in a huge mess. Peter tells him if the assets decrease by just 25%, it will exceed the value of the company. Tuld states that the music is about to stop, and they are holding a whopping bag of shit. Peter says it is much worse than Tuld seems to believe or understands. Tuld then asks him why he is the boss. Tuld states it is his job to predict what happens next week, next month, next year and he is only hearing silence. He then asks Sarah and Jared what they have to offer; they are both silent. Tuld mentions there are three ways to succeed… Be first, be smarter, or cheat. Tuld does not cheat, and he is not the smartest so they have to be first.
Jared states they should sell all the toxic securities. Tuld asks Sam if he agrees with Jared’s proposal or if he has another idea. Sam states he will need to be honest; they will need to have all trades done by 11 otherwise by lunch word will get out, and at 2PM they will be selling off at 65 cents on the dollar. Afterward the Feds will come in to try and slow them down to prevent a panic. Sam asks Tuld who will they be selling to. Sam tells him outright they are selling junk and their clients will never buy anything from them again if they do this. Tuld does not care; he tells Jared they have till 5AM to get it set up and ready for the next day. Tuld asks for Eric Dane. Tuld then calls the meeting to return in an hour and requests Sam join him for a personal meeting..
Tuld and Sam talk. He asks if he will play ball with him. Sam does not like it because he believes that if you sell something to someone you want them to come back to buy again. Tuld says they need to sell and just go with it. Sam accuses him of panicking. Tuld tells him if you are the first out of the door it is not a panic. Sam tells him their company’s reputation will be ruined, and people will lose their jobs. Will asks how the meeting with Tuld went. Sam says he will go along, but he is not happy. Jared and Sarah talk in the elevator. Sarah asks what strategy will be used. She tells Jared he better not screw her or she will make sure they go down together.
Seth joins Peter and Will in his office. They eat an early meal as they wait for the next meeting. Seth asks what Tuld made last year. Will tells him $86 million in bonuses and salary. He was worth a billion until today. Will gets a phone call as Sam walks in to see him. Eric came home; his wife called but is being discreet about the call. Sam tells Seth and Will to have Eric at the office by 6am. Tuld meets with Sarah. She asks if Sam is on board. He asks if she will fall on the sword for them. She says she did send many warnings over the year. Tuld asks her to not fight him on this; she will get a severance, but he needs her to stay in her office till the market closes.
Seth and Will are in the garage. Jared joins them and shares his concern that Sam may not want to play ball. Will advises him that he and Sam are on the same page. Sam is in his office alone, and listening to music. He nods off but awakens suddenly. Peter is walking the streets while Sarah is in her office looking at the city as the sun rises. Seth and Will arrive at Eric’s house. They see Eric walking up, but he does not want to talk about it. Eric confirms Peter finished the model with his data, and it is a shit storm. Will tells Eric the senior partners voted to liquidate everything. Will needs him at the meeting, but he states he is through with it all. Eric shares a story about how he built a bridge; he was an engineer by trade and since it was built in 1986 it has saved people time and money. Eric thanks him for coming by. They see a limo come by and Will says they need him at the office. He will be paid, and all he has to do is show up, and sit in an office. Will tells Eric that some people like to drive the long way home.
Sam is in the restroom. Tuld comes in and asks Sam to play ball. Tuld holds up a notepad with a figure. Sam says he will play ball, but Tuld knows that his guys will not be on board unless he is 100% for it. Sam walks out of the room quite angry. Seth and Will drive back. Seth asks if he will be getting fired. He confirms he will, but says it is nothing personal; young guys get let go first. Seth says it will affect people, but Will only seems concerned about himself. Seth asks if they are wrong, and Will says they are all fucked.
Peter sees Sam smoking. He asks Sam if they are getting fired. Sam says yes, and he will be let go as a mercy killing. Peter mentions he knows Sam’s son; he is a smart kid and well liked. Peter asks if it is the only option they have, but Sam says for who. Seth is in the bathroom crying. Jared walks in and shaves. Jared asks him how he is, and Seth says he knows he will be fired. Eric and Sarah are in her office waiting for the day's events to unfold. Sarah asks how they got him to come in. Eric mentions it was either lose 2 years fighting for his shares and health benefits, or sit quietly in a room and make $176K per hour. She tries to apologize to him, but he knows it will not help. He asks what her deal will be, but she is not sure.
Will and Sam bring in the junior traders. Sam says they need to sell off several holdings. He states they will liquidate the majority of MBS accounts; they will be the first of many to do so. If they achieve 93% sell-off of their assets, they will get a 1.4 million dollar bonus. If the whole floor sells 93%, they will all get an additional 1.3 million bonus. It is a fire sale; the first hour will be key. No swaps, it will be sales only. Sam says if they succeed they will destroy their jobs, and ruin their reputations with their clients, but he will be proud of their hard work.
The Market opens; Will is heard selling off his assets to various brokers. He speaks to a number of buyers, and assures them that nothing is going on and everything is fine. After a number of calls, the buyers are skeptical, and he has to check with Sam for approval of some of the sales. They are losing money on many of the trades, but they have no choice. Jared walks in and tells Sam that people are going to be sent home immediately. Sam still has a job for the moment yet as Sam walks out he sees a number of people being escorted out. Sam goes to the executive dinning room and speaks to Tuld who is having dinner. Sam wants out; he wants his bonus and his holdings released. Tuld says he needs him for 2 years and that there will plenty of money to made. Tuld says to Sam it could be worse; he could be digging ditches, yet Sam states at least at the end of the day there would be ditches dug. Sam cannot believe how they screwed things up so badly. Tuld tells him that they have been doing it for decades; it is no big deal and has always been this way. He then mentions all the financial panics, recessions and busts that have occurred over the past 500 years, but the bottom line is they are all part of the economic cycle. Sam says he will stay, but only for the money. Tuld and Jared promote Peter, yet the fates of Seth and Will are not mentioned.
Sam is digging a hole in the backyard of a nice house. His ex-wife Mary (Mary McDonnell) steps out says she will call the police. She asks what he is doing. He tells her their dog Ella has died. He wants to bury her there because it was her home, but it is no longer his. He asks about his son, and she says he is fine despite the events that day. She wishes him well and leaves him to his digging.
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