'I know it was true, but it’s not who I am. I say to my son, I say it to everybody who I try to mentor: We are not the mistakes of our past. We’re the resources and capabilities that we glean from our past. And it’s so true'.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that it’s a delicate argument for Belfort to make. He will forever be associated with Stratton Oakmont, the Long Island penny-stock boiler room he ran in the 1990s. Stratton employed more than 1,000 brokers at its peak, before the Securities and Exchange Commission shut down the company and the FBI arrested Belfort, in 1998.
Convicted of money laundering and securities fraud in 2003, he received a four-year prison sentence - he served only 22 months - and was ordered to repay $110.4m to a victim compensation fund.
Other terms for the kind of outfit he built and ran are 'pump and dump' and 'chop-shop'. The words 'fraud' and 'crook' come up frequently as well.
'It chokes me up a little when I think about it. … I was a bad guy. And it wasn’t like I started that way', he says, his voice becoming tight. 'You can get desensitized to your own actions—it’s easy on Wall Street. Before you know it, it’s like everyone’s just a number'. He goes on: 'I shouldn’t really care what people think of me. … I know I’m good. But of course I do care'.
Belfort, 51, is in Fort Worth for two days in October speaking to the Young Presidents’ Organization, a secretive networking group for CEOs and other senior executives under the age of 45. His theme, as usual, is what he’s learned from his experiences about how others can avoid the pain he caused and suffered.
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