The Wolf of Wall Street was released back in 2013 and baffled the world with its depiction of stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s chaotic life. The movie was based on the memoir of the same name written by Belfort himself. If you’ve seen the movie, here’s your chance to learn the whole story.
The movie was directed by Martin Scorsese and featured major Hollywood actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Donnie Azoff, and Kyle Chandler. It follows Belfort’s corrupt career as a stockbroker in New York and the life he led during the ’90s.
How Belfort Got Into Wall Street
Belfort wasn’t always a stockbroker. His first job was selling meat and seafood from door to door on Long Island, but that business ultimately failed and he filed for bankruptcy at the age of 25. A family friend helped Belfort find a job as a trainee in the L.F. Rothschild firm, but Belfort was laid off when the 1987 stock market crashed.
The experience he gained in that firm didn’t go to waste, however, as he founded the Stratton Oakmont, an over-the-counter brokerage house, in 1989 after discovering that he would receive a 50% commission for every penny stock he sold.
The idea is to gain the trust of investors by selling penny stock with a guaranteed financial return but low commission cost. After the investors see the result, the stockbroker tries to sell an already-owned stock that is bought at a low price but artificially inflates the value to the investors. Since the investors trust the stockbroker, they buy the overpriced stock in the hopes of gaining an even bigger profit, but when the firm sells the stock again, the price falls and the investors lose their money. That practice is called “pump and dump,” since the stockbroker pumps the value and then dumps the stock.
The Stratton Oakmont Boiler Room
Belfort grew quickly with this securities fraud scheme. Investors were falling for the sweet talk and the money kept coming through the boiler room. You can recognize the boiler room in the movie as the place where the stockbrokers made the calls to sell the stocks.
It was also the place where Belfort gave his daily epic speeches and threw unusual parties filled with drugs to his employees to inflate both their egos and their abilities to scam clients. At one point, Stratton Oakmont had over 1,000 stockbrokers and was involved in stock issues totaling more than $1 billion.
Belfort and his brokers made a habit of abusing drugs, especially methaqualone, also known as Quaaludes. There’s no way of knowing how well the movie portrayed Belfort’s lifestyle, but some unbelievable facts did happen, like the time he almost crashed his private helicopter into his mansion and when he drove his Mercedes on such a high dose of Quaalude that he almost became paralytic.
The movie also changed details like real-life names and exaggerated other facts as well, like the exotic animals that appeared in the boiler room. Donnie, for example⏤played by Jonah Hill in the film⏤really did swallow a broker’s goldfish in real life, so the movie followed through with showing some real activities that occurred in Stratton Oakmont’s boiler room.
Jordan Belfort’s Arrest
The defining fact of Belfort’s story is his arrest due to his stock fraud and money laundering schemes. Stratton Oakmont didn’t pass unnoticed and received lots of scrutiny from the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), which is now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority since 1989.
In 1996, the NASD expelled Stratton Oakmont and put the firm out of business. In 1999, Belfort pled guilty to fraud and related crimes in connection with stock market manipulation and running a boiler room as part of a penny-stock scam. He made a plea deal with the FBI for a lesser sentence and in exchange, wore a wire to incriminate his friends. He received a four-year sentence at a low-security federal prison, which did have all the privileges shown in the movie. Belfort didn’t have to worry about violent criminals or precarious facilities even though he stole over $200 million.
During his time in prison, he was inspired by Tommy Chong, his cell buddy, to write a memoir of his life. Belfort wrote The Wolf of Wall Street, which in turn inspired Scorcese’s movie.
Where Is The Wolf Of Wall Street Now?
Belfort ended up serving less than half his sentence⏤just 22 months⏤and had to pay back $110.4 million to stock buyers. After he left, he became a motivational speaker and writer with the success of his book but didn’t fully pay the determined restitution.
BusinessWeek reported that Belfort had paid only $21,000 toward his restitution obligations out of the $1.2 million paid to him in connection with the film before its release.
Now he denominates himself as a father, entrepreneur, speaker, and author on his social media. He has training courses and offers a Straight Line Sales Certification costing up to $7,998.00. You can also find him on Instagram and Tik Tok, where he posts about his millionaire lifestyle despite having ruined millions of lives back in the ’90s.