On December 31, 2018, a hedge fund performance coach filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York alleging that CBS and Showtime appropriated a substantial portion of a book she wrote to create their TV series “Billions.”
Denise Shull claims that a key character in the show uses techniques in trading psychology that have only been described in her book. She explains how the character of Dr. Rhoades in the show is an “unauthorized rip-off” of what she had written about in her book, “Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading and Risk,” which is a fictionalized account of Shull’s own experiences coaching financial professionals at hedge funds. The complaint states “Shull’s technique, which combines ‘neuropsychoanalysis, neuroeconomics, and modern psychoanalysis’ and applies them in the finance world, has only ever been described in her book, which ‘Billions’ producer Andrew Ross Sorkin and the others were aware of.”
According to the complaint, Sorkin had asked Shull to help develop the “pivotal” character after inviting her to his talk show on CNBC in 2012 to discuss the book and her approach to coaching and trading psychology. Thereafter, Shull alleges that she met with the producers and the actress playing Rhoades to discuss her coaching work. Later, a Showtime executive set up a conference call with her to discuss joint promotional initiatives with the show and her book, which she said she believed was the start of a relationship and that the terms would be negotiated later.
The complaint alleges the pilot episode, which aired in January 2016, portrays Rhoades as virtually the same as Shull’s own character in “Market Mind Games,” with the character making “nearly identical” statements and observations as those made by Shull in the book. Shull claims she never authorized the producers to create such derivative works, but “Rather, at all relevant times, plaintiffs and defendants understood and agreed that Ms. Shull would receive credit and compensation for her contributions and the derivative status of Billions,” the complaint reads.
Shull is represented by Rosanne E. Felicello and Michael J. Maloney of CKR Law LLP.
The case is Shull et al. v. Sorkin et al., case number 1:18-cv-12400, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
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