Ben Oliver

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Betting on Zero

The bigger the lie, the easier it is to get away with it.
10 July 2017

A documentary following Wall Street trader Bill Ackman, who bets $1bn against ‘Herbalife’ - a US fitness drinks company - on the premise that he believes it to be a pyramid scheme.

Although the film focuses on one company, this is one of the better deconstructions on how multi-level marketing as a whole really works; from the people at the top to the people getting screwed at the bottom.

You buy a load of product from someone, who makes commission off of it. The way you make money is not through selling the stock but rather through getting other people to sign up and sell it for you. In turn, they must recruit people ‘below’ them etc etc. It’s the classic pyramid scheme but it uses a product to legitimise it, even though the actual demand for the product is questionable.

There are enough diverse interviews and viewpoints to keep Betting on Zero interesting, yet Braun never lets the story stray too far from the central theme. Perhaps he’s preaching to the converted but hopefully the film manages to sway a few people who may be pondering get-rich-quick schemes.

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