The real life Wolf of Wall Street

On Christmas day, thousands of moviegoers filed out of theaters across the United States shocked by the vulgarity of the revolutionary blockbuster “Wolf of Wall Street”. Starring household names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, the seemingly unreal tales of the entrepreneurs’ debaucherous path to fortune shocked viewers. The film, directed by Martin Scorsese, captures every explicit detail of the real life multi-millionaire Wolf of Wall Street, and to viewers’ dismay, the story is continuing as we speak.

Jordan Belfort, now 51, is notorious for pulling off one of the most corrupt business dealings in the history of Wall Street. In 1990, Belfort founded Stratton Oakmont, a stock agency that gained success by selling shares of unknown names to unassuming customers. Using the “Pump-and-Dump” method, Belfort and his colleagues were able to inflate the value of individual IPOs by encouraging investment. After this, the stocks would fall to their normal value, thus robbing the consumer of savings and money. This highly illegal activity, accompanied by drug use, prostitution and driving under the influence, resulted in suspicion by public officials. As the FBI case formed, Belfort attempted to salvage his money in Swiss banks, but was soon caught and charged over $200 million in repairs and sentenced to 20 years in prison— a time lawyers were miraculously capable of reducing to just 22 months.

During his two leisurely years in prison, Belfort changed. With inspiration from his cellmate Tommy Chong from the 70’s duo Cheech and Chong, Belfort decided write a book detailing his experiences at Stratton Oakmont and repenting his sins. In the autobiography, he revealed the explicit details of adultery, drug dealings and crashing not only his helicopter, but also his Mercedes sedan while high on expired prescription pills with his 3-year-old daughter riding in the front seat with no seatbelt. His autobiography topped the New York Times best-sellers list, allowing him to pursue a successful career as a motivational speaker and business advisor. Belfort now gives seminars across the country, raking in $30,000 per talk. Needless to say, Belfort has landed back on his feet, living in a $3.5 million house on Manhattan Beach, California. His partner in crime, Danny Porush, is also doing fine, selling medical supplies from the comfort of his seven bedroom palace in Miami Beach, Florida.

Although Belfort has promised the government to use the profit from his book and blockbuster to pay back those who fell victim to his scheme back their money, officials say they have yet to see a penny of it. That being said, the release of this film will inevitably drive up the success of Belfort’s seminars. His website advertises his intoxicated past as “The Real Life Wolf of Wall Street, Sales Tactics You can Use to Persuade and Ethically Make Money”. The irony is compelling as Belfort baskes in the spotlight of Hollywood calling himself a “Hollywood Hotshot”.

After seeing the film, Belfort reportedly broke a sweat but still told CBS news the experience was “bittersweet”. I may be missing something, but I did not find it sweet. Bitter, yes – the man lied to people making a tenth of his yearly salary. The twisted robin-hood jipped children of college tuition and the elderly of their retirement savings. In the film, he exploited his children, ex-wives and colleagues while making a fool of himself. I maintain the belief that that Belfort’s presence in pop-culture may short lived, but his role as a modern day Gatsby is legendary. Therefore, we should be emphasising Belfort’s downfall, not the undignified masses he acquired at the expenses of not only his customers, but of his family and friends. We should be focusing on the emptiness triggered as he sat in a jail cell. We should be discussing the addictiveness of narcotics, money and power. However, the film and publicity does not represent this, thus we are simply condoning the power of greed and allowing his influence in the business world to thrive as an example.