The Wolf Of Wall Street : Myth vs Truth

The movie “The Wolf Of Wall Street” has managed to convince people  around the world that everybody on wall street is as crazy as the characters depicted in it. Of course it couldn’t be farther from the truth. The drug infused antics in the movie are such an exaggeration that it seems very unbelievable, at least it was to me. But I did a little digging and was quite bemused to find out a lot of the incidents that took place in the movie were actually true!

Being a stock broker on Mumbai’s Dalal Street for the past 2 years of my career have opened my eyes to the world of financial services and stock broking in particular. Let me tell you, it’s very very hard. It’s not at all as easy as depicted in the movie, they didn’t show you how he built his client base which must have taken ages! You have to constantly increase your client base and you HAVE to make them trade every single day. I service 45 clients which I have acquired myself over the past one and a half years and let me tell you it’s a daunting task to build a stock broking business from scratch. Those 45 came after meeting about a 150.

It’s a long term game in this business and I know if I just persevere without giving up and continue meeting more prospects every day I will increase my customer base slowly and steadily over the years to come. Every broker who started in the 90s is a millionaire today. That’s my aim!

Now back to the movie. Apart from my friends from college calling me “The Wolf Of Wadala” which is the place I stay in Bombay and where my first office was( I ingnore those jibes) here are some of the incidents that took place in the movie and I break down the fact from fiction.

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Did Jordan Belfort really meet his future business partner in a restaurant?

Jordan, Nadine, Nancy and DannyJordan (left), with his then wife Nadine, was introduced to Danny Porush (right) via Danny’s then wife Nancy (center right).

No. In the movie, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) first encounters Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) at a diner after noticing Belfort’s Jaguar in the parking lot. He tells Belfort that if he show’s him a pay stub with $72,000 on it, he will quit his job immediately and start working for him. In reality, the real Donnie Azoff or Danny Porush, was introduced to Jordan Belfort by his wife, who had met Belfort on the bus during her daily commute to the city. She says that Belfort always gave up his seat for her. She thought he was nice and quickly realized that he lived in their apartment building. She later introduced her husband to him, figuring that Jordan might be able to help Danny with his struggling private ambulette business. After just one conversation with Jordan, Danny came home and told his wife that he was going to take the Series 7 exam to get his stockbroker’s license. The rest is history.

What was the name of Belfort’s brokerage house?

The Wolf of Wall Street true story confirms like in the movie, that Stratton Oakmont was the name of the real Jordan Belfort’s Long Island, New York brokerage house. Belfort and co-founder Danny Porush (played by Jonah Hill) chose the name because it sounded prestigious. The firm would later be accused of manipulating the IPOs of at least 34 companies, including Steve Madden Ltd. (their biggest deal), Dualstar Technologies, Paramount Financial, D.V.I. Financial, M. H. Meyerson & Co., Czech Industries, M.V.S.I. Technology, Questron Technologies, and Etel Communications.

What did Jordan Belfort do that was illegal?

Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm ran a classic “pump and dump” operation. Belfort and several of his executives would buy up a particular company’s stock and then have an army of brokers (following a script he had prepared) sell it to unsuspecting investors. This would cause the stock to rise, pretty much guaranteeing Belfort and his associates a substantial profit. Soon, the stock would fall back to reality, with the investors bearing a significant loss.

How many employees worked for Jordan Belfort’s brokerage firm?

At its peak in the 1990s, Stratton Oakmont, Belfort’s firm that he co-founded with Danny Porush, employed more than 1,000 brokers.

Did Jordan Belfort really host an in-office dwarf-tossing competition?

No. “We never abused [or threw] the midgets in the office; we were friendly to them,” Danny Porush (the real Donnie Azoff) says. “There was no physical abuse.” Porush does admit that the firm hired little people to attend at least one party.

Was Jordan Belfort really known as the “wolf” of Wall Street?

No, at least not according to the former co-founder and president of the Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm, Danny Porush (portrayed by Jonah Hill in the movie). The real Porush says that he is not aware of anyone at the firm calling Jordan the “wolf.” Porush says that it’s just one of a number of exaggerations and inventions in both Belfort’s book and the movie.

Is Matthew McConaughey’s character, Mark Hanna, based on a real person?

Yes. In exploring The Wolf of Wall Street true story, I learned that Jordan Belfort claims to have met Matthew McConaughey’s character’s real-life counterpart, Mark Hanna, in 1987 when he was working at the old-money trading firm of L.F. Rothschild. His new acquaintance was a senior broker at the firm and introduced Belfort to the excess and that Belfort would later make a daily staple at Stratton Oakmont. Like in the movie, the real Mark Hanna behind McConaughey’s character told Belfort that the key to success was masturbation, cocaine and hookers, in addition to making your customers reinvest their winnings so you can collect the commissions.

Did Jordan Belfort really abuse cocaine and other drugs?

Yes.  In researching The Wolf of Wall Street true story, it quickly became clear that Belfort used drugs heavily in real life too. In his memoir, he states that at times he had enough “running through my circulatory system to sedate Guatemala.”

Did Belfort really stand in front of his employees and give riling speeches with a microphone?

Yes. Belfort was known to stir his troops into action by belting out words of motivation through a microphone. However, his speeches were often filled with more self-adulation than DiCaprio’s speeches in the movie.

Did a female employee really let them shave her head for $10,000 to pay for breast implants?

The real Jordan Belfort claims this is true in his memoir. The female employee let them shave off her blonde hair for $10,000, which she used to pay for D-cup breast implants. Co-founder Danny Porush also says that the shaving took place, ” the worst we ever did was shave somebody’s head and then pay ’em ten grand for it,” says Porush.

Was Jordan Belfort’s Quaalude dealer in the movie, Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), based on a real person?

Yes. The character in the movie, Brad Bodnick, who has a goatee and is portrayed by The Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal, is based on Jordan Belfort’s real-life Quaalude supplier, Todd Garret. In his memoir, the real Jordan Belfort claims that Garret sold him approximately 10,000 Quaaludes.
Was there ever a chimpanzee in the office?

No. Ofcourse fucking not !

Did he really almost crash his helicopter in his yard?

Yes. In his memoir, Jordan Belfort writes that he was flying his private helicopter while high on Quaaludes and nearly crashed it in his yard.

Did Belfort and his colleagues really have drug-addled nights and sexcapades with prostitutes on a near daily basis?

Though the movie and Belfort’s memoir might seem like gross exaggerations of the truth, depicting heavy drug use and sexcapades in the office during trading hours, they’re not exaggerations at all says the F.B.I. agent who finally took Belfort into custody, “I tracked this guy for ten years, and everything he wrote is true.”

Was Belfort really arrested for crashing his Lamborghini while high on expired Quaaludes?

Yes, but according to Belfort the car wasn’t a Lamborghini like in the movie, it was a Mercedes. He was so high in a drug daze that he couldn’t remember causing several different accidents as he tried to make his way home.

Did Danny Porush really swallow a goldfish?

Yes. According to the real Donnie Azoff, whose actual name is Danny Porush, the scene where Jonah Hill’s character eats a goldfish is based on a true story. “I said to one of the brokers, ‘If you don’t do more business, I’m gonna eat your goldfish!'” Porush recalls. “So I did.”

Was footwear mogul Steve Madden really involved in Belfort’s scheme?

Yes. As shown in the movie, Steve Madden had been a childhood friend of Belfort’s partner Danny Porush (renamed Donnie Azoff in the movie and portrayed by actor Jonah Hill). Their fondness for drugs and alcohol reunited the two of them. During the initial public offering of his footwear company, Steve Madden Ltd., Madden acquired a large number of shares of his company, which were actually being controlled by Belfort and his firm, Stratton Oakmont. Once shares became available to the public, Stratton Oakmont got down to the business of selling them to unsuspecting suckers. Billing Madden’s company as the hottest issue on Wall Street, Belfort’s brokers in turn drove up the price. Eventually, Steve Madden was to sell off his shares when the hype was at its peak, just before the stock began its inevitable decline. Similar to what is seen in the movie, Belfort still maintains that Steve Madden tried to steal his Steve Madden shares from him. However, Jordan Belfort did make approximately $23 million in two hours as part of the deal with Steve Madden, who would later be charged as an accomplice to Belfort’s scheme.

For his part, Steve Madden was sentenced to 41 months in prison and was forced to resign as CEO of Steve Madden Ltd. He also resigned from the company’s board of directors. However, he did not leave the company entirely. He kept his foot (or shoe) in the door by giving himself the title of creative consultant, for which he was well-compensated even while he was in prison.

Did Jordan Belfort really name his yacht after his wife?

Yes. The real-life yacht was named “The Nadine” after Belfort’s wife, who, like in the movie, he affectionately referred to as “The Duchess of Bay Ridge.” In the movie, the yacht bears the name “Naomi” after the character portrayed by Margot Robbie (Belfort’s wife’s name was changed for the film).

Did Belfort’s yacht really sink in a Mediterranean storm?

Yes. In real life, Belfort’s 167-foot yacht, which was originally owned by Coco Chanel, sunk off the coast of Italy when Belfort, who was high on drugs at the time, insisted that the captain take the boat through a storm. As he states in the interview, his helicopter didn’t fall off the boat during the storm like in the movie. Instead, they had to push the helicopter off of the top deck of the boat to make room for the rescue chopper to drop down an Italian Navy commando.

How long did FBI agent Gregory Coleman spend tracking Jordan Belfort and his firm?

FBI agent Gregory Coleman, renamed Patrick Denham for the film and portrayed by actor Kyle Chandler, made tracking Belfort and his firm, Stratton Oakmont, a top priority for six years.

Did Jordan really strike his wife?

Yes. According to his memoir, he actually kicked his wife Nadine down the stairs while he was holding his daughter. She landed on her right side with “tremendous force.” Shameful.

Did Belfort really endanger his 3-year-old daughter’s life by crashing his car through the garage door?

Yes. In real life, he put his daughter Chandler in the front seat of the car without a seat belt on, before crashing it through the garage door and then driving full speed into a six-foot-high limestone pillar at the edge of the driveway. Like in the movie, he was high at the time.

What was Jordan Belfort’s punishment?

When he was finally arrested in 1998 for money laundering and securities fraud, Jordan Belfort was sentenced to four years in prison.

What inspired Jordan Belfort to write his memoir?

This is hilarious! You won’t believe it but Tommy Chong (one half of “Cheech and Chong”) was Jordan Belfort’s cellmate in prison. After laughing at some of Belfort’s stories from his days running the firm, Chong encouraged him to write a book.

Cheers!

 

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