A Wall Street performance coach who uses psychology to aid stock traders is suing the creators of “Billions” for copyright infringement, alleging a key character in the show is based on her.
As Deadline reports, Diane Shull has filed a a lawsuit claiming that she is the uncredited — and uncompensated — inspiration for Dr. Wendy Rhoades (played by Maggie Siff), who works with maverick hedge funder Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis) while married to U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), on a mission to bring Axelrod down.
In her suit, Shull alleges that series co-creator Andrew Ross Sorkin — a financial columnist and co-host of MSNBC’s “Squawk Box” — consulted with her while developing the show, and essentially lifted the persona she created in her book Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading and Risk (which she discussed on “Squawk Box” in 2012).
In summer 2015, Shull claims, Sorkin emailed her to seek help in developing the female lead character, described as “a female hedge fund performance coach who helps financial professionals improve their performance by dealing with their own emotional baggage.”
Later that summer, Sorkin asked Shull to meet Siff after she had been cast in the role; Siff, says Shull, told her she was reading her book, and it would be “an integral part” in developing the character.
Siff also put Shull in contact with “Billions” co-creators David Koppelman and David Levien, and she alleges she spent an hour in the writer’s room discussing investing psychology. Shortly after, Shull says she was contacted by a Showtime executive to discuss playing a role in promoting the new show, which Shull believed was a prelude to a professional relationship which would be negotiated later.
This never happened, she says, and she heard nothing further until the launch of the show in January 2016.
“After the first episode, people in New York who knew me said, ‘Oh my God it’s you,’” Shull told Deadline, which led to a profile of the “real-life Wendy” in The New York Observer.
The following year, Shull says she received a letter from Showtime’s attorneys, demanding that she stop “promoting herself as the inspiration for the character or describing herself as a consultant on the show.”
This, she says, was when she decided to seek legal advice, resulting in her lawsuit.
“They had multiple opportunities to do the right thing. Instead, what they’ve done is attempt to pretend that I don’t exist, and my book doesn’t exist,” Shull adds. “I think they figured that I wouldn’t or couldn’t stand up to CBS or stand up to Andrew Ross Sorkin.”
In addition to the copyright infringement claim, the suit alleges “vicarious copyright infringement for profiting from a derivative work, a violation of New York civil rights law for using her persona without her consent, deceptive trade practices and unfair enrichment.”
“’Billions’ is a hugely successful television series entering its fourth season with revenues in excess of an amount to be determined at trial,” Shull states in her suit. “Under these circumstances, equity and good conscience demand that defendants give restitution for their receipt of the benefits that the plaintiffs conferred.”
You can read the lawsuit in its entirety right here.