Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Monday, May 20, 2019

Former “Wolf of Wall Street” offers AU students candid advice

Former “Wolf of Wall Street” offers AU students candid advice

Jordan Belfort, a former securities trader who ran the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont and subject of the upcoming film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” addressed a nearly full Ward 1 on Nov. 7.

Belfort spoke about what it takes to succeed in business and the importance of remaining ethical while doing so. The Kogod School of Business sponsored the event.

Belfort served 22 months in prison for money laundering and securities fraud after the FBI arrested him in 1998. After writing his book, which the film is based and named after, Belfort returned to prominence in 2008. Its success prompted companies to hire him to speak about his experience.

Belfort is a 1984 graduate of AU, earning a bachelors of science in Biology from the College of Arts and Sciences. He spoke fondly but briefly of his time at the University and mentioned that he paid for the cost of tuition with the profits from his first business venture: selling ice cream at Jones Beach in New York during summers in high school.

“I never looked at working as anything other than as my pastime,” Belfort said. “That defined me as a human being.”

He said that while he started out with good intentions as stock broker, his single-minded pursuit of making money and desire for instant gratification led him astray. Belfort described one fraudulent transaction he made as a pivotal moment that opened the door to the illegal activity.

“My ethical line shifted,” he said. “All of a sudden, you find yourself doing things you never thought you would do, but you think it’s all perfectly OK.”

The trailer of the Martin Scorsese film, which opens Dec. 25, prominently features Belfort’s formerly extravagant lifestyle that included drugs, prostitutes and even sinking his own yacht. He addressed it just once during the hour-long event.

“Have any of you seen the trailer?” Belfort said, asking for a show of hands. “Pretty cool, right? But midget tossing is bad, not ethical.”

dmitchell@theeagleonline.com


Never miss a story.

Get our weekly newsletter in your inbox.