Martin Scorsese’s high-octane biopic The Wolf of Wall Street is a three hour-long, drug and alcohol-infused jaunt through Jordan Belfort’s pump-and-dump scam.
It’s gripping, it’s well-acted, and it’s funny.
But like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Belfort remains sympathetic throughout his many transgressions (which include fraud, swindling poor people, and hitting his wife).
That’s of course more “entertaining” than documenting the financial strain of his thousands of victims (who in total lost about $US100 million in the scheme), but the New York Times’ Susan Antilla took the time to tell the story of a few of them. From the Times:
Dr. Alfred E. Vitt, a retired dentist in Heath, Tex., who lost $US250,000, described a typical strategy that Stratton brokers used.
“They started off selling me good stocks, but it wasn’t long before I didn’t know what they were doing,” he said. After Dr. Vitt had made a quick profit on a blue-chip company, his broker moved on to sell him penny stocks that regulators would later deem to have been manipulated by Stratton.
“It started to cost me more and more,” Dr. Vitt said. “I finally just said ‘no’ and they became downright hostile.” Sometimes a second broker would join in on a phone conversation to help bully Dr. Vitt into making a purchase. “I had to struggle for a while to make ends meet” after losing so much money, he said.
The film is based on the real life Belfort’s autobiography, so it’s obviously going to tell his own story of Wall Street glitz and excess. Still, it’s important to remember what the guy actually did to land himself in jail.