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Storyteller/Reporter Unwinds Economic Complexities
Monday, August 29, 2016 6:40 AM

Planet Money Host Added to Economic Forum

In the well-regarded 2016 Oscar-nominated film, The Big Short, director Adam McKay faced a hurdle as he told the tale of market conditions leading up to the Great Recession. The challenge: big money jargon.

McKay decided to include several celebrity asides during the movie to demystify financial terminology. Actress Margot Robbie, singer Selena Gomez, and chef Anthony Bourdain made cameos to explain the likes of synthetic collateralized debt obligations and subprime bundling. While the celebrities brought the acting, Adam Davidson helped put the words in their mouths.

Davidson, who writes the weekly "It's the Economy” column for the New York Times magazine and is a co-host and frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s Planet Money show, was a technical advisor to The Big Short.

“Adam McKay was working on the script for The Big Short and quickly found himself struggling, as I think all of us did, with understanding what subprime bundling was that was so central to the financial crisis,” says Davidson. “He wanted to better understand the broad world of Wall Street, but also how a crisis on Wall Street could have such a devastating impact on people around the country and the world.”

Davidson got the call to unwind those complexities and soon found himself explaining credit default swaps to the film’s stars: Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, and Steve Carrell.

Davidson will bring his knack for simplifying and storytelling to Catalyst Corporate’s 39th annual Economic Forum, Oct. 3-5, at the Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas in the Dallas area.

The arc of Davidson’s presentation begins during the Great Recession, when he produced a radio documentary on the housing crisis titled "The Giant Pool of Money." The Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University named it one of the top 10 works of journalism of the decade. "The Giant Pool of Money" was widely recognized as the clearest and most entertaining explanation of the roots of the financial crisis in any media.

Davidson’s presentation will also cover the The Big Short, economic implications of the general election and will land on an exploration of the emerging “Sharing Economy.”

The term "Sharing Economy" has been widely used since about 2010, yet according to a Pew Research survey taken in winter 2015, only 27 percent of Americans had heard the term.

The Sharing Economy, sometimes referred to as the “Access Economy,” allows consumers to share goods and services, such as living spaces and cars through Airbnb and Uber, for example. Of course, little sharing is going on, as consumers have to pay for usage. Nevertheless, such services now represent billions of dollars in annual revenue and are altering some market segments, Davidson said. 

In addition to Davidson’s presentation, "Share Economy: The New Direction," other Economic Forum presentations include:

  • Evan Koenig: An Outlook on the National Economy
  • Randy Harrington: Big Dilemma: Accessibility vs. Security
  • Ray Perryman: Energy's Influence on the Economy: Positive or Negative?
  • Bill Hampel: Positioning Credit Unions for the New Economy
  • Jack Uldrich: The Numbers That Matter
  • Marci Rossell: Now What Do We Do?

The Economic Forum also features a daylong, deep dive of balance sheet strategies and insights provided by experts with Catalyst Corporate and Catalyst Strategic Solutions. The actionable information will be presented in two tracks, one for executives and one for directors and other credit union volunteers.

Details and registration information for this not-to-be-missed event are available at

Catalyst Corporate is an endorsed business partner of Credit Union Resources, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cornerstone Credit Union League.