Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed 2013 movie The Wolf of Wall Street introduced many viewers to Jordan Belfort, the real-life stockbroker who spent 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to securities fraud and money laundering charges in 1999. Now Belfort, who was memorably portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, is suing the film’s production company, Red Granite Pictures, and its co-founder Riza Aziz for $300 million.
It was Aziz who in 2011 convinced Belfort to sell the rights to his 2007 memoir, also titled The Wolf of Wall Street. But since the film’s release, Aziz has become enveloped in the headline-grabbing 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal (or 1MDB — not to be confused with IMDb, the Internet Movie Database). The name refers to a Malaysian government fund that former Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly used to funnel money into his own personal accounts. Razak is Aziz’s stepfather, and Belfort’s lawyers contend that Aziz acquired the rights to his story with funding misappropriated from 1MDB.
Aziz is currently facing corruption charges in Malaysia (he has pleaded not guilty), and now Belfort has filed a $300 million lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that he “is significantly damaged by Red Granite’s tainting of his book/story rights, coupled with Red Granite’s inability and/or refusal to exploit and maximize the rights acquired from Belfort as required by contract, due to the highly publicized scandal and amid the allegations of their direct involvement.” Belfort’s complaint says he “had no indication that Red Granite was funded by illegal proceeds, and planned to use those illicit funds to exploit the rights acquired from him. Had he known, he certainly would have never sold the rights.”
In a 2017 interview with finews.com, however, Belfort said of Aziz and company, “I met these guys, and said to Anne [Koppe, Belfort’s fiancée and business partner], ‘these guys are f—ing criminals.’”
Reached for comment about Belfort’s lawsuit, Matthew L. Schwartz, lawyer for Red Granite, said in a statement to EW, “Jordan Belfort’s lawsuit is nothing more than a desperate and supremely ironic attempt to get out from under an agreement that for the first time in his life made him rich and famous through lawful and legitimate means.”