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CBS, Showtime Face ‘Billions’ Copyright Infringement Suit

Jan. 2, 2019, 3:28 PM

A character from the Showtime series “Billions” is an “unauthorized rip-off,” according to a new lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Denise Shull and her consulting firm The ReThink Group Inc. are suing CBS Corp., Showtime Networks Inc., and the show’s creators for copyright infringement. Shull says the character Dr. Wendy Rhoades, an in-house performance coach for a hedge fund, was based off Shull’s book Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading, and Risk.

Showtime promotes “Billions” as a “complex drama about power politics in the world of New York high finance.” The character Rhoades “is known for her unique technique … which combines the psychology of trading and risk, based largely on recognizing and using emotions as part of the risk calculus,” according to Shull.

Shull’s book contains fictionalized accounts of her own experiences advising financial professionals by applying the fields of “neuroeconomics, modern pyschoanalysis and neuropsychoanalysis,” she said. Shull met with the show’s creative team to discuss her work, but she never authorized them to create a derivative work, she said.

Nevertheless, the Rhoades character is substantially similar to how Shull portrays herself in the book, and multiple episodes of the show feature statements, observations, and accounts that track those of the book, according to the complaint.

In addition to copyright infringement, Shull accuses the defendants of violating her right to privacy under New York civil rights law, injuring her business reputation, and breach of implied contract, among other claims. She’s seeking a ban on the infringing work and an unspecified level of damages.

A spokesman for CBS and Showtime didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

CKR Law represents the plaintiffs.

The case is Shull v. Sorkin, S.D.N.Y., No. 18-12400, filed 12/31/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Flood in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at; Nicholas Datlowe at