This post has been generating a lot of comments over on my Forbes blog, so I thought I’d repost it here. Feel free to weigh in.
There is a cautionary tale for all investors in the events depicted in the film The Wolf of Wall Street, but apparently the movie chooses to ignore them.
This post from Christina McDowell, whose father was an associate of the self-styled wolf, Jordan Belfort, underscores the point that the cost of financial fraud is farther reaching and more personally damaging than a movie can reveal. Movies, after all, thrive on the visual. Antics and debauchery are more visually appealing than heartbreak and despair.
But there’s a bigger problem with the film, as Joel Cohen, who prosecuted Jordan Belfort, points out: the end is basically an ad for Belfort’s “motivational speaking” business. In other words, Belfort conned one of Hollywood’s best living directors into helping him launch his next scheme.
Belfort never cared about his victims, and the movie apparently doesn’t either. Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrays Belfort in the film, has said glorifying the hedonism while ignoring the victims’ plight was deliberate. He told the New York Daily News:
We purposely didn’t show (Belfort’s) victims. We wanted the film to be a hypnotic ride the audience gets on so they get lost in this world and not see the destruction left in the wake of this giant ship of greed.
Without the victims’s perspective, it’s difficult to put that brutality of Belfort’s actions in focus. What made Oliver Stone’s Wall Street a seminal film about financial fraud was that it showed consequences. It showed the toll that Gordon Gekko’s amoral philosophy had on ordinary people, including Bud Fox ’s father.