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Lifestyle
 

Meet the real Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort, jailed for an investment scam featured in movie, will be speaking in Singapore

Published on May 28, 2014 1:29 PM
 

A decade after he was jailed 22 months for defrauding investors in the scam covered in the 2013 Oscar-nominated movie The Wolf Of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort continues to make the news.

According to Australian media, the disgraced trader portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film stormed off an Australian television interview, while another had faced him off against an alleged victim.

He has also been questioned on his earnings as a motivational speaker, and how much of it is going back to compensate the victims of his "pump and dump" schemes, as required in his sentencing agreement.

Next month, Belfort will be speaking in Singapore at what is touted as a "business seminar", covering "the elements of business success and specific strategies needed to effectively build, manage, promote and grow organisations".

Life! sent him questions by e-mail and he answered with an audio recording.

"I'm paying investors back, in spite of news you may have heard that I'm not," says Belfort, 51. He is earning US$100 million (S$125 million) a year as a speaker, he reportedly told an audience in Dubai.

"I am paying back 100 per cent of the profits to investors. It's going to be a massive number, in the tens of millions. I hope to pay it all off this year," he tells Life!

Belfort has to pay US$110 million in restitution to investors who were pressured into buying worthless stocks by salesmen at Stratton Oakmont, which he co-founded. Once the prices of these penny stocks rose, Stratton sold its own holdings of the stock, crashing the prices and creating massive losses for clients.

The 2013 film, based on Belfort's own published memoirs, is noted for its scenes of sexual excess and drug-taking, so much so that five minutes had to be cut to meet Singapore's R21 rating. It triggered an online furore over censorship.

Speaking in a rapid-fire New York accent, Belfort says he has no problem with the Qualuude-taking, cocaine-snorting and sex depicted in the Martin Scorsese movie. He loves the film and finds it "amazing" and "wildly entertaining", and the film offered a window into not just the "insanity and the drug addiction" but also the camaraderie between the traders.

But there is one point where it departs from the truth, he says.

"It showed me giving the middle finger to clients while I was on the phone pitching to them, and that we talked about selling the clients s**t.

"We never talked like that ever. We always talked about making the clients money... But I understand why for the sake of the movie, it was there. It made it visceral," he says.

His illegal acts constitute only a small fraction of his activities as an entrepreneur, a fact that is often forgotten, he says, as well how he left Stratton in 1994, while it continued to do business for some years.

"My past really gives me more of a platform to speak than most people who just speak or who wrote a book or who didn't live what they are talking about. Especially for me, I infuse this idea of ethics and integrity being a must when it comes to doing business.

"For me, I realise it cost me everything, because I lost my ethics. I would be worth five or 10 billion dollars by now, if it wasn't for things spiralling out of control on the ethical side."

johnlui@sph.com.sg

Background story

Book it

A DAY WITH THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Where: Garnet Room, Singapore Expo

When: June 8, 2 to 5pm

Admission: $188 to $388, depending on options such as a cocktail session with Belfort, from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)