Filmgoers can't for the life of us agree on whether The Wolf of Wall Street glorifies or vilifies the bottomless greed it depicts, so here's something we can agree on: Jordan Belfort—however generously or villainously he's portrayed—shouldn't be cashing in on it.
Oh, legally or contractually or whatever, sure—it's his memoir. He sold the rights, and he profited duly. Reportedly, he received more than 90 percent of the $1.045 million Red Granite Productions paid for the film rights. But he claims not to be pocketing any royalties, so that figure wouldn't be so notable if not for the fact that as of October, Belfort had paid only $11.6 million of the $110.4 million he owes his victims in restitution, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In other words, as Esquire hinted last month, Belfort is continuing to rip off his victims, even 15 years after giving up Stratton Oakmont and a decade after being ordered to pay the restitution in his 2003 sentencing.
Enter the U.S. government's bid to seize about a million dollars of the rights paid to Belfort and redirect it to his victims. From The Guardian:
The US government wants to seize funds paid to the Jordan Belfort, the crooked stockbroker who inspired the Oscar-tipped Martin Scorseseblack comedy The Wolf of Wall Street, in the hope of compensating thousands of Belfort's victims.
Justice department officials believe at least 50% of rights payments, totalling more than $1m (£610,000), received by Belfort could be seized. [ . . . ] Belfort is said to be fighting attempts to pay further compensation because he believes his supervised release has terminated.
Sounds great. Where do we sign? Because really, the push to curb Belfort's profits from selling his story in the direction of those directly victimized by his story has been going on for quite some time:
In 2007, the government learned about a deal to publish Belfort's book, The Wolf of Wall Street. Subsequently, restraining notices were served on Bantam Books, Warner Bros. and Appian Way.
A deal was soon worked out whereby Belfort would give 50 percent of those proceeds (after his agent's 15 percent commission.)
Anyway: we're fully on board with any plan to keep Belfort from profiting from the film rights. Really, even if the money doesn't go to his victims—just don't let that quaalude-popping sleazebag get any of it.
That way you can get back to feeling guilty (or not) about the content of the movie that just had you guffawing like a crazed horse and not who's profiting from it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.