Entertainment is a vital part of our daily lives but sometimes we have to draw the line. The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo Di Caprio is a case in point. The film depicts the sordid life of penny stock broker Jordan Belfort, a two-bit Bernie Madoff for the middle class. While drugs, alcohol abuse, prostitutes, and midget tossing could be classified by the depraved among us as entertainment, the real story behind the film is anything but.
Belfort made millions by ripping off many hard working middle class people in this country with a penny stock scam known as “Pump and Dump.” His reward for this was about one million dollars for the rights to make this film. According to Barron’s magazine only $21,000 went to restitution for his victims. That amount was given only by coercion by the authorities. By the way Belfort currently lives in a mansion in California and earns considerable sums as a “motivational speaker.” I guess prospective financial sociopaths also need some T.L.C..
While this film was meant to show the dark side of finance, it appears to be having the opposite effect. During a sneak preview attended by a Wall Street crowd the other evening disturbing events occurred. According to Business Insider, the crowd went wild with cheers and delight during certain scenes depicting some of Belforts’ most serious felonies. Similar to the Godfather, The Sopranos and Scarface, this film has the potential to encourage copy cats. Belfort could become the gift that keeps on giving.
While everyone deserves a second chance, Belforts actions toward his past victims speak a lot louder than his words. Maybe Pope Francis can download this film from Netflix to show to his detractors when he is accused of being a Communist for citing the rampant greed in finance. I am sure the Pope would forgive Belfort but I don’t think his victims should until they are given some of the millions owed to them from some of the profits this film is sure to make. While Leonardo DiCaprio believes “Jordan is a shining example of the transformative qualities of ambition and hard work.” I do not think the widows and elderly who placed their trust in him and lost all their money would agree.