'The Wolf of Wall Street' is set to prowl again
Martin Scorsese's new film about the notorious Jordon Belfort has the financial scamster in the spotlight once more.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie is based on a book by Jordan Belfort, who was convicted of swindling investors out of more than $100 million. It's being distributed by Viacom's (VIA) Paramount Studios and is slated for release in November.
Belfort is no hero. CNBC's John Carney describes him as "a nasty piece of work," which is understandable. A federal prosecutor called Stratton Oakmont, the firm Belfort ran in the 1990s, "the most infamous boiler-room brokerage firm in recent memory."
Judging from the debauchery featured in the trailer, Belfort certainly had his share of fun while he and his cronies manipulated the shares of at least 34 companies over a seven-year period. But whatever people think of his past misdeeds, Belfort knows how to turn lemons into lemonade: He now markets himself as a public speaker. His official biography is a testament to the power of positive thinking.
"As the owner of one of the biggest and most successful brokerage firms in Wall Street history and having raised over $1.5 billion in startup capital, Jordan has real-world experience and expertise in this arena that is unmatched," according to Belfort's website. "Jordan also had the experience of watching his world crash down around him, as he was incarcerated for securities fraud and served 22 months in federal prison as a result."
Thanks to his time in prison, Belfort says, he's "uniquely positioned" help people create wealth and use it for the public good. If "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a hit, demand for Belfort's services as a public speaker will certainly rise.
But even in Belfort's case, crime does not pay. As Carney noted, the former money man is obligated to pay the victims of his crimes 50% of his gross income until they recoup the $100 million he stole.
Carney wrote, "Even if this movie is the smash hit of the century, Belfort's not going to ever manage that."
Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.
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