The Wolf of Wall Street: A mirror held up to reality?

Unlimited amounts of prostitutes, midget tossing, unbridled debauchery, class ‘A’ drugs and Quaaludes.

It was just another day in the office for Jordan Belfort, founder of the GBP 150 million stockbroking empire Stratton Oakmont in the late 90s, and now, basis of the internationally acclaimed film The Wolf of Wall Street.

After being indicted in 1998 over chargers of fraud and money laundering and scams that swindled 1,513 people out of millions, he served 22 months in jail and was ordered to pay restitution totalling over USD 110 million.

Now a motivational speaker, he has become synonymous the world over with the excesses frequently perceived in the world of finance and banking.

“I was not a good guy back in the day,” he has claimed, “but I’m a good guy now — I am.”

The Wolf of Wall Street screenwriter Terence Winter has stated “we [cast and production] were all in agreement that we wanted to tell the truest version of this story and not the sanitised version.”

But how do today’s bankers compare the scenes portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street; the film written from Belfort’s memoirs starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese, with the modern day reality?

The bankers of today

“This is what gives the City a bad name,” claims a banker watching a special viewing of the film.

“I hope that people see this in a historical context and not in the current context,” he continues.

The view was expressed by a London-based banker who has previously worked on Wall Street before relocating to the UK in the 90s.

He is part of a group of senior officials in the financial industry who are watching a special viewing of the film; scheduled in order to see whether the modern day world of banking bears any parallels to the excesses in Scorsese’s historical romp through Wall Street.

While many condemned the film as pure fantasy, a few broached their suggestions that there are similarities.

The one female viewer, a former lawyer in the City, states the profane banter is familiar to those who have worked the trading floors.

Another banker – working in the finance industry since the early 90s – states the glamorous conferences in exotic locations, pep talks before deals and drunken lunches all ring true.

Yet the overarching theme is that this is a time, place and sentiment not possible in today’s economic climate.

“If you look at the younger generation … they have been sensitised to what is unacceptable,” notes one banker.

In addition, another notes those making immense amount of money in today’s climate “are usually boffinish and work incredibly hard.”

One fund manager furthers the point: “”In reality, people working in finance today are working in an immensely regulated environment,” meaning a lack of the bombastic antics feature in the film.

“I hope that people see this in a historical context and not in the current context, “says the banker who previously worked in Wall Street.

He concludes, “I would be disappointed if I had paid money to see that because it just isn’t real.”

And so, whilst writer Terence Winter claims he is holding a mirror up to reality, it seems the rampant spending and fast pasted, ultra-luxurious life of unscrupulous bankers is more fiction than fact in today’s regulated world.

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