January 14, 2014

Author and real-life “Wolf of Wall Street” could lose his film royalties


Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort

It’s been a rather tumultuous week for Jordan Belfort, onetime author of The Wolf of Wall Street, a memoir of his time as a stockbroker-cum-con man. On Sunday, Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Belfort in the film based on the book; but meanwhile, Eriq Gardner writes for the Hollywood Reporter, the justice department is seeking to seize Belfort’s rights payments in order to compensate the victims he defrauded.

Belfort gained notoriety when he was convicted of securities fraud and money laundering, while running the Stratton Oakmont brokerage, where he made his money conning investors with fraudulent stock sales and developed the lavish, hard-partying lifestyle that’s the centerpiece of the recent awards-bait Martin Scorsese film. After cooperating with the feds, he served 22 months in a federal prison for a scheme that cost his investors some $200 million, and he was ordered by the court to repay $110.4 million to his victims, of which to date he’s paid $11.6 million.

There’s been an ongoing dispute over Belfort’s restitution payments, which are supposed to be 50% of his gross income every year; there was also a separate agreement that he would pay 50% of the proceeds from his two books — The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street. Gardner points to government documents that show that:

Red Granite Productions purchased film rights to The Wolf of Wall Street for $1.045 million. Of that amount, Belfort received $940,500. In addition, Belfort got $125,000 when Scorsese began shooting the film and another $125,000 when the film hit theaters last month. Yet in 2011, when Belfort got nearly a million dollars for selling rights, he made just $21,000 toward restitution.

Belfort’s attorney insists that he has made all required restitutions, but Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, says that “Belfort’s making these claims, and they’re not factual. He’s in Australia and using that loophole to avoid paying.”

No word yet on whether DiCaprio has to surrender half of his fancy new statuette.


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.