Wall Street performance coach claims ‘Billions’ ripped her off

A Wall Street performance coach is suing the creators of the hit Showtime series “Billions” for copyright infringement, saying they stole from her life to create the show’s key character of Dr. Wendy Rhoades.

Trading coach and psychologist Denise Shull says the creators, writers and producers of “Billions,” including New York Times financial columnist and CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin, based the Rhoades character, played by Maggie Siff, on her and her book, ” Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading, and Risk.”

“Dr. Rhoades’ technique is not a fiction created out of the minds of the showrunners and writers of Billions. Rather, it is an unauthorized rip-off of Plaintiff Ms. Shull’s original work,” the lawsuit says.

In addition to Sorkin, the lawsuit names executive producers Brian Koppelman and David Levien as well as Showtime CEO David Nevins and CBS as defendants.

Shull, who is seeking damages in an amount to be determined at trial, says Sorkin was aware of her book and reputation as a trading coach because he invited her to appear on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Aug. 9, 2012, to talk about “Market Mind Games.”

More than a year later, Shull was interviewed for a story about her work as a trading coach in the New York Times’ online blog DealBook, which Sorkin started, Shull’s lawsuit said.

Andrew Ross Sorkin
Andrew Ross SorkinGetty Images

“Unbeknownst to Ms. Shull at the time of the Squawk Box interview and the article in Dealbook, Defendant Sorkin was also developing a pilot for a television series based in part on Market Mind Games and Ms. Shull’s persona as a performance coach to financial professionals,” the lawsuit said.

In 2015, Sorkin emailed Shull about the show he was developing “and requested her assistance with the development of the female lead character, Dr. Wendy Rhoades, a female hedge fund performance coach who helps financial professionals improve their performance by dealing with their own emotional baggage,” Shull’s suit said.

Sorkin also sent an email to Siff, introducing Shull as “one of the leading hedge fund performance coaches in the country.”

The show, also starring Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis, is loosely based on the high-profile legal battle between former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, who saw multiple employees of his firm, SAC Capital, convicted of insider trading. Cohen himself was never charged with illegal trading.

Showtime didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

In a statement to Deadline Hollywood the network said, “Ms. Shull has cycled through multiple law firms and theories of her supposed case, as part of her repeated failed attempts to force us to engage her as a consultant on our show. We are confident her lawsuit will similarly fail.”

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