Lessons from Brian Banks

From time to time, I would come across movies that leave a lasting impression on me.

Recently, I watched the show “Brian Banks” on Netflix. Unfortunately, if you intend to watch it now in June 2022, the show is no longer available on Netflix Singapore.

It is a simple feel-good movie with a strong underlying message.

The show revolved around the inspirational true story of Brian Banks, an all-American high school football star who finds his life upended when he’s wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Despite the lack of evidence, Banks gets railroaded through a broken justice system and sentenced to a decade of prison and probation. Years later, with the support of Justin Brooks and the California Innocence Project, Banks fights to reclaim his life and fulfill his dreams of playing in the NFL.

In June 2002, Wanetta Gibson, 15, accused junior Brian Banks, 16, then a standout football player at Long Beach Poly High, of dragging her into a stairwell and raping her. 

According to Banks, who was 17 at the time and being tried as an adult, he believed the plea deal was the less risky choice. This was at the urging of his attorney, who was hoping Banks would get probation, not the maximum of six years. The deal was that if he pled no contest to one count of sexual assault that he would undergo what’s called a 90-day observation at Chino State Prison.” His attorney assured him that after the 90 days, the counsellors and psychologists would give him a favourable report and the judge would agree to give him probation.

If Brian Banks didn’t take the deal, the true story confirms that he was facing a potential sentence of 41 years to life in prison if found guilty (California Innocence Project). He had just 10 minutes to make the decision and said he wasn’t permitted to speak to his mom. He was told there was no time.

In the end, he decided to plead no contest.

He did not get a favourable report, and the judge did not give him probation.

He ended up convicted of rape in 2002, Banks spent five years and two months in prison, in addition to five years of high-custody parole, during which time he was required to wear a GPS tracking device on his ankle. He also had to register as a sex offender, which significantly hurt his chances of finding a job.

So yeah, for that 17-year-old all-American high school football star… life served him a serious curve ball, and his once stellar future seems to be all but gone.

He was a frightened, fustrated, angry and confused teenager in a prison surrounded by men who committed actual crimes.

However, he did not give up.

A teacher Brian encountered at Juvenile Hall by the name of Jerome Johnson, who became a mentor to Brian. In the film, he tells Brian, “your despair can become a doorway” and that “all you can control in life is how you respond to life.”

Nearly a decade after his conviction, Gibson recanted her statements and has acknowledged she fabricated the whole story.  The California Innocence Project presented this evidence of Banks’ innocence to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office who launched an investigation into the case.  After a thorough review of the evidence, the District Attorney’s Office conceded that Banks was wrongfully convicted.

On Thursday, May 24, 2012, Judge Mark C. Kim of the Los Angeles Superior Court reversed Banks’ conviction and ended his nightmare of wrongful conviction. “There comes a time when you have to let go in order to move on. The only thing I wasn’t going to let go was this fight,” Banks said outside of the courthouse after his exoneration.

I don’t know about you. However, in recent months there are days or weeks or months for me when everything seems to go out of wack.

There are days whereby I woke up, peeked at the laptop screen, and just see this (see below). It makes me wanna shut the laptop down and go back to sleep (and never wake up).

I go to work, and everything seems to go against me.
It sucks. (probably like how Ronny Chieng would say it – SUCKS! – with capital letters).

After work, I go home… wifey told me that our neighbour downstairs complained that there are leaks coming from our toilet to her toilet. Groused about other stuff.

I again look at the stock portfolio with my tired eyes, and see that the losses for that day are more than what I can make in a month; on some days they can run up to five figures losses… and that has been happening consecutively for the past few days/weeks…. how much longer is this gonna last?

So yeah, I know the magnitude is nothing compared to what Brian Banks felt… but I can see the parallel in some of these.

Life like the stock market is something which I can’t control. Man, if I am not invested in stocks… and have my cash safely kept in the bank…markets’ volatility would mean nothing to me. I would be blissfully unconcerned about the rising interest rates, inflation fears, war in Ukraine, Fed reserve announcements, lockdowns in China, the recent ban on the export of Indonesian palm oil – and what these fears do to the stock markets.

But nooo…. it seems that I have to pay the ‘fees’ to stay invested.

And probably like Brian’s mentor said: “all you can control in life is how you respond to life.”

So when it comes to my stock investments, it is back to calmly looking through the recent companies’ narratives, financial reports, annual reports, the valuations, and free cash flows of the underlying companies.

Holding on to a diverse basket of stocks… and be thankful for the incoming dividends.

And to slowly add on to my investments.

It is what it is… life goes on.

Frankly, all stocks are risky. Different sectors (or even different markets) have different sets of risks and (from another angle) different sets of potentials.

If I look past the head-lines news (of doom and gloom), of the looming recession, rising inflation, rising interest rates, Russia-Ukraine conflict, Covid lockdowns, the social unrest in HK, regulatory risks (when it comes to China-related stocks)…

I can see that profits are rising for many of the stocks in my portfolio.

For my portfolio:

The recent results of The Trade Desk, Mastercard, Pinduoduo and many of the REITs, are improving.

Mastercard posted adjusted earnings of $2.76 a share on $5.1 billion in adjusted net revenue, well above estimates calling for $2.18 in earnings per share and revenue of $4.91 billion. Adjusted net income was $2.7 million, up 55% from the same period last year. Operating expenses increased 11% due to a 6-percentage point increase from acquisitions, and increased spending on advertising and personnel costs.

The Trade Desk earnings were 21 cents per share, up 50% from a year earlier. Revenue rose 43% to $315 million.

Pinduduo posted a solid quarter. Net income came in at 2.6 billion yuan ($410.1 million), a turnaround from a loss of 2.9 billion yuan last year. Both monthly active users (MAU) and active buyers reached all-time highs of 751 million and 882 million. The balance sheet remained strong with 95.2 billion yuan ($15.0 billion) in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments.

Google’s revenue came in at $68.01 billion, growth of 23% from the same period last year. That’s a slowdown from 34% growth in the first quarter of 2021, when the economy was reopening from the pandemic.

Better days ahead for Tencent and Alphabet, I hope.

HK Reits like Link Reit have improving financial results and their debt ratio (compared to their Singapore peers) is way low.

On 1 June 2022, Link Reit announced that its key performance indicators reflect resilient business performance despite the ongoing macroeconomic challenges and uncertainties. Occupancy has improved from 96.8% to 97.7% in Hong Kong retail as of 31 March 2022. Over 660 new leases were signed in Hong Kong retail portfolio in addition to renewals in full year. Excluding the discretionary distribution 7 cents, distribution per unit (DPU) for the year grew by 8.2% to 298.67 cents.

Sun Hung Kai properties and CK Asset also reported better results.

In Feb 2022, Sun Hung Kai Properties announced that reported profit and reported earnings per share attributable to the Company’s shareholders were HK$15,186 million and HK$5.24 respectively, compared to HK$13,578 million and HK$4.69 for the corresponding period last year.

For CK Asset, with the reopening of their pubs, the profit margins are improving. CK Asset has unitholding interests in three listed real estate investment trusts, namely Hui Xian REIT (stock code: 87001), Fortune REIT (stock code: 778), and Prosperity REIT (stock code: 808) – and their results are also improving.

In March 2022, CK Asset announced that the Group’s profit attributable to shareholders for the year ended 31 December 2021 amounted to HK$21,241 million (2020 – HK$16,332 million). Earnings per share were HK$5.77 (2020 – HK$4.42), an increase of 30.5% as compared to last year.

In May 2022, HongKong Land reported that underlying profit in the period was higher than the first quarter of 2021, principally due to a higher number of Development Properties completions on the Chinese mainland, while the contribution from Investment Properties was broadly unchanged.

Straco is starting to pay dividends again. Results have yet to improve. Hopefully, with the easing of lockdowns in China, it will get better.

Growth in income for Ascott Residence Trust and Mapletree Commercial Trust has improved.

For ST Engineering, in Feb 2022, ST Engineering announced that the group posted a 7.5% increase in Group revenue to $7.7b from $7.2b a year ago in the same period contributed by all its business segments. Group EBIT grew 13% year-on-year (y-o-y) to $673.6m from $596.4m. Group Profit before tax (PBT) grew 19% y-o-y to $637.6m from $534.4m. Group Profit attributable to shareholders (Net Profit) grew 9% y-o-y to $570.5m from $521.8m.

Banks (DBS, BOC HK, HSBC) – not stellar results – but steady. In general, they are achieving steady business growth with financial indicators remaining healthy. Dividends have gotten better this year.

May is typically a good month for dividends, and this year I had a ‘bumper crop’ in May.


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About apenquotes

Born in 1976. Married with 2 kids (a boy and a girl). A typical Singaporean living in a 4 room HDB flat. Check out my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/apenquotes.tte.9?ref=bookmarks
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