The former stockbroker served 22 months in prison after pleading guilty in 1999 to securities fraud and money laundering, as part of a scheme that cost investors approximately $200m. He’s portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s 2013 movie.
Belfort’s suit, which was filed on Thursday in Los Angeles, centres around allegations about the film’s financing, and claims that Belfort was kept from fully exploiting the rights to his story.
The former stockbroker names Red Granite Pictures, a production company, and Riza Aziz, a Malaysian film producer, as defendants.
Back in 2016, the FBI claimed that some of the funds used to produce The Wolf of Wall Street came from alleged corruption in Malaysia. The affair has become known as the 1MDB scandal, after a state-run strategic development company.
Aziz was named in a 2016 FBI complaint related specifically to The Wolf of Wall Street, which alleges in part that “tens of millions in 1MDB funds ...were used to fund red granite pictures and The Wolf of Wall Street". He pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges in July 2019. His sister has criticised the legal action against him, writing on Instagram according to The Associated Press: “Despite the settlement in the US and the fact that alleged wrongdoings occurred entirely outside of Malaysia, the [Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission] decides to press charges after a whole year of leaving this case in cold storage. He is not a criminal.”
In the new lawsuit, Belfort alleges that the “scandal” has caught him unaware.
“Belfort was completely blindsided to learn, after the fact, of the source of funding for Red Granite and the film based on his book/story, as Defendants concealed these criminal acts and funding sources from him,” the suit states. “Had he known he certainly never would have sold the rights.”
Red Granite’s attorney Matthew Schwartz told Variety in a statement: “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.”