‘Your only regret is gonna be that you didn’t buy more shares!’
That’s the line Jordan Belfort used to reel in suckers, one after the other. Martin Scorsese’s newest epic, called The Wolf of Wall Street, opened yesterday, and this is a film filled with anything but the Christmas spirit.
Early on, Matthew McConaughey, playing superstar stock broker Mark Hanna lays it all out for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, and us, ‘that the name of the game was to move the money from your client’s pocket into your own pocket.‘
Advice that Belfort not only understood, but fully embraced. Not only embraced but embellished. Belfort had to put in his time as a connector (the lowest of the low in the Wall Street hierarchy), which was all he could do as he was trainee without a Series Seven License. That’s the exam all stock brokers have to pass before being allowed to sell stocks. As a connector his sole job was to dial a number then say, “Please hold for Jerry Fogel”. After that, he’d graduate up to be a cold caller, then upon passing his Series Seven – he’d be a broker. Unfortunately, when that day occurred, it was the very same day of the infamous market crash of 1987, and Belfort was soon out of a job. The firm he worked for, L.F. Rothschild, closed a month later.
His wife spotted a small ad for a broker in the paper, and Belfort went after the job. This was an investment house in name only. It was located in a forlorn strip mall, and was as tacky, as rundown, and as lame as anyplace you’d ever seen. If you had any money, you wouldn’t want to even set foot in this place, much less give your money to these guys to invest for you.
But when he was told that he would earn a 50% commission on each and every dollar he got people to invest, Belfort was all over the job. Having trained with a Master of the Universe like Mark Hanna, Belfort knew every trick in the book. The orders and the money began to roll in big time.
I know what you’re thinking, how could one out of every two dollars the clients invested go as the broker’s commission? That’s a good question. The answer is simple. They were selling worthless stocks that had almost zero chance of gaining value. That is without some assistance from the seller – and that was called Pump and Dump. As the client was buying at inflated values, they, and I mean Belfort and his pals were selling. If the client somehow wanted to cash out, and take his profit – that was fine, provided the client could be talked into reinvesting the original investment and the profit, into an another worthless venture.
Needless to say Belfort and his pals, cronies from his old Bayside, Queens neighborhood, all got spectacularly rich when Belfort opened his own shop, called Stratton Oakmont. Once Belfort decided to target as their clientele, the wealthiest 1% of Americans, he was on his way. As he called it, America – the land of opportunity.
The words sex and drugs are just the beginning. As some wag, named Oscar Wilde once said, Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess. Of course it wouldn’t and couldn’t last. But that isn’t the point of this gem of a film by Martin Scorsese.