One of my favorite films is The Godfather. I had a friend who memorized every line in the movie and would find a way to apply one to just about all of life’s situations. We would go to lunch and someone would ask about the choices, he would invariably say, “Have the veal, it’s the best in the city.” I worked in a very rough inner city school where student shootings were not uncommon. When I inquired about the status of one of the wounded he replied, “Five shots and he is still alive.” You get the picture. I was thinking of how some of these classic lines could apply to finance. Here is a list I compiled. Feel free to come up with your own, if you wish.
1. “You can act like a man!” – This classic line was delivered by Don Vito to a blubbering Johnny Fontane, and was punctuated by a well-deserved slap to the face. This quote could be used for investors glued to CNBC and rattled by daily market movements. Get over it! The reason you make money in stocks is because they go up and down a lot with a wide range of probable outcomes.
2. “Oh. Who’s being naïve, Kay?” – This was delivered by Michael when his wife Kay questions Michael’s comparison of high government officials to the mafia. This would be great to use on opponents of the fiduciary rule who believe brokers will act in the best interests of their clients out of the kindness of their hearts.
3. “It’s not personal Sonny, it’s strictly business.” – Michael says this in his defense of his suggestion to murder a police captain who was involved in the rackets. This line would be ideal to convince those who believe they have a personal connection to a stock because it “owes them.”
4.“You’re out, Tom.” – Michaels’ line to the Tom Hagen when Tom wants to be a part of the impending mayhem. This could be used to dismiss any Edward Jones salesman who turns up uninvited on your front porch.
5. “Goddamn FBI don’t respect nothin’.” – Sonny’s line when the Feds’ disturb his sister’s wedding (to check license plates) could have great value. Lawyers for Bernie Madoff, Jeffrey Skilling and Bernard Ebbers could have used it in an attempt to persuade the very cynical juries these fraudsters faced.
6. “Take a hold of him. Stand him up. Stand him up straight.” – Captain McCluskey uses this line before breaking Michael’s jaw when his integrity was questioned. This would be great for Elizabeth Warren to use on Jamie Dimon the next time he tells her she doesn’t understand the global banking system.
7. “I’ve frisked a thousand young punks.” – A cranky McCluskey says this on the ride to New Jersey, before his infamous meeting with Michael. SEC Chair, Mary Jo White, could find this line valuable the next time Congress accuses her of being too soft on the industry she regulates.
8. “Read the papers! Read the papers! That’s your husband!” – Connie’s response to uber naïve Kay (when she confronts Michael after he had her husband, Carlo, murdered) has many uses. One could be as a response to those who still bank at the major money centers without any knowledge of the billions of fines they have paid for every financial transgression under the sun.
9. “Well, there wasn’t enough time Michael. There just wasn’t enough time.” – Don Corleone laments to Michael that they have yet to legitimize the family business. Meredith Whitney could use this in a letter to her former shareholders, explaining why she had to close her much hyped hedge fund.
10. “These things gotta happen every five years or so. Helps to get rid of the bad blood.” – Clemenza is being philosophical about the inevitable gang wars that must periodically occur. Angela Merkel, the German Prime Minister, could use this to help persuade the Greeks to agree to the demands of the IMF and their other creditors.