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PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Interview with Jordan Belfort
Aired January 24, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: This is Piers Morgan Live. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Tonight, the movie that's raunchy roar and some people say crosses the line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, tree.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO, PLAYS JORDAN BELFORT IN "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET": Stop. Safety first. Safety is first. I don't want to get a bad reputation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Martin Scorsese's "Wolf of Wall Street". I'll talk exclusively with a man who is the inspiration for Leonardo Dicaprio's character.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what Jordan just did is he -- if I'm not mistaken ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... you just tried to bribe a federal officer.
DICAPRIO: No, technically, I didn't bribe anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no that's not the conversation.
DICAPRIO: No, no, no, according to US criminal code, there needs to be an exact dollar figure for the exchange of services that would not hold up in the court of law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I heard it.
DICAPRIO: No, no, no that's the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Yes, the real life "Wolf of Wall Street" Jordan Belfort is here tonight live and unleashed. Hollywood has made Jordan Belfort into a big story. It doesn't get much better than watching Leonardo DiCaprio that surely play on the big screen of the movie that could be Oscar-bound.
But, in real life, Jordan Belfort used what's called a pump and dump to scam more than 1,500 investors and blew millions of everything from drugs, to women, to yachts, to cars, ended up behind bars to securities fraud and money laundering serving 22 months in a four-year sentence.
And Jordan Belfort joins me now exclusively. You're like one of the most notorious people in the entire world, Jordan Belfort. And actually, I have had calls from all over the world in the last 24 hours since we announced this because you don't give interviews, certainly not for a long time. You haven't given in for this movie until now.
JORDAN BELFORT, THE REAL-LIFE WOLF OF WALL STREET: Right.
MORGAN: Now you've let yourself loose here for the next hour. How do you feel about this extraordinary mayhem erupting around you, your story, this movie?
BELFORT: Well, it's a bit surreal for sure because, I mean, I think controversial more than notorious. And I, you know, I chose not to give interviews for a while. And I think I wanted the movie to be basically played. I think the studio wanted that as well and I thought this would be a good place to sort of, you know, get the message out. And assure people who have questions, you have question and a ...
MORGAN: What is the real message you want to get out?
BELFORT: Well, I mean, I guess for me, I -- it's important that the movie is viewed the right way certainly as a cautionary tale. I know this is big issue of, you know, people maybe glamorizing what happened. And I think that, I mean, I think Terry Winter, the guy who wrote the screenplay, said it best when he was interviewed. Because if you look at this movie and you walk away, thinking this is how you want to live your life then you have screw lose. So ...
MORGAN: But people said that about Wall Street ...
MORGAN: ... and Gordon Gekko and of course even you admit that Gordon Gekko became this weird inspiration to go and beat Gordon Gekko. Many other people did too. And I suppose the crisis about the movie right now is, people will look at Jordan Belfort's life played by Leo DiCaprio. And it is very glamorous movie for a large part of it. You don't see much of the, I guess the human side of the victim. So we're going to go come that a bit later.
There is a danger that all of this movie will do is create -- alert of the old Jordan Belfort. Except not the guy you now are.
BELFORT: Right the old ...
MORGAN: But the old one who even you admit was a pretty bad guy.
BELFORT: Yeah. Well, I don't really think that is going to happen and I'll tell you why, I think that is a fundamental difference between the Gordon Gekko character and myself.
Number one, Gordon Gekko was a fictionalized character and they never really saw his downfall. All he -- I think in the end of it, he got taped and then, you know, he push his button and that's that. You'll find at the Wall Street too of what happened to Gordon Gekko.
And this movie it's pretty clear that I lost everything and also my story is known throughout the world that I ended up in jail and it -- that, you know, it was a disaster personally, professionally. And I think, that being said though, I think there's a lot of great things to glean from the movie. And so, I think that hopefully when people see this, they can say, you know, there's some things in it that, wow, really are inspiring. Starting from nothing, to start with selling and motivation, I think that does inspire, I think it should move people. But they need to get in a context that if you're not doing it with ethics and integrity, it's a disaster for yourself and everyone around you.
MORGAN: Let's watch two clips.
MORGAN: The first one is Leo DiCaprio in character as Jordan Belfort from the movie talking about you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICAPRIO: My name is Jordan Belfort. The year I turn 26, I made $49 million which literally piss me off because it was three shy of a million a week.
Was all this legal? Absolutely not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: The second clip, this is Leo DiCaprio talking about the real you.
MORGAN: So, not from the movie, but just a proper interview with Leo talking about what he thinks of you personally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICAPRIO: I've been in this company many times but there is nothing quite like Jordan's public speaking and his ability to train and empower young entrepreneurs. Jordan stands as a shining example of the transformative qualities of ambition and hard work. And in that regard, he is a true motivator. (END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I suppose my first question would be and pretty extraordinary, right? I mean, there's you, you had it all, you lost it all, you're down, every thing's gone. Now you've got the hottest movie star in the world paying you that kind of compliment in a piece he brought it out there for people to see. And what did make you feel like to see DiCaprio do that?
BELFORT: It was amazing. I mean, I think that it's a testament to Leo's character that he could, you know, obviously speaking about my new life and not my whole life ...
BELFORT: ... in that clip. And I think that, you know, originally when Leo saw this project, I think he was, you know, he want to get it on screen. And he said this publicly because it represented the mistakes that I made, the attitude I had at that time represents a lot of what really went wrong ultimately in many years later with Wall Street and I think it was important to him. And I think that what impressed Leo, I think, about my new life so much is he saw me really make this radical turn and I think that moved him and I was really proud and, you know, shocked they did that.
MORGAN: How much time did you spend with Leo DiCaprio?
BELFORT: I spent a lot.
MORGAN: Like what?
BELFORT: You know, countless hours, you know, hundreds of hours.
MORGAN: Hundreds of hours in his company?
BELFORT: Yeah, or hundred plus hours.
MORGAN: And how did you find him and how did he find you when you were just interacting together?
BELFORT: Oh, either, you know, by telephone in my house or his house or out somewhere. And we just literally, he said, you know, one thing I don't think people realize about Leo is his excellence is not by -- that he strives for it. He works really, really hard and I think he was so determined to suck every bit of information from me and any stuff that wasn't in the book. And sort of, you know, what was on my mind, just really try. And I guess I, you know, there is how much he is looking at you because when I saw it on screen, I was like, "Oh my God." A like to be -- I thought it's, you know, it was mind boggling to see.
MORGAN: I mean, I can tell already the voice is pretty well perfect.
BELFORT: It's amazing.
MORGAN: He got you. You know you don't look massively dissimilar to, I guess, in your younger days to how he is in the movie and so on.
When you watched the movie, what did you feel about the reality because only you would know really?
BELFORT: You know it was shocking. And when I first saw the movie with my fiancee the first time and we were speechless afterwards, you know, and I was all ...
MORGAN: In a good or bad way?
BELFORT: In a -- in a good way. I mean, I guess, for me, it's different than anybody in the audiences. I think they're speechless and because there's like overwhelmed with obscenity and all of that.
For me, it was trying to sort of, you know, I come to terms with my old life. I wrote this book and it was like a cathartic experience to me. But to see it on film like that with someone that that's just such a good job, I literally -- I thought I must have sweating at certain points with some of the cocaine was being snored and I'm like, I got all the sympathetic reactions to it. And I just -- it was ...
MORGAN: And all of that was true, right? I mean, I'm not overrating, I think an FBI guy who was investigating and he said, the thing about Jordan Belfort is it's all true. I mean, let's go through to some of the things in the movie. I can say I love the movie. If you haven't seen it regardless of the moral issues it raises, it's a brilliant movie.
BELFORT: It's a very brilliant movie.
MORGAN: Incredibly entertaining, brilliantly made.
BELFORT: Thanks (ph) Scorsese for sure for ...
MORGAN: And great actors everywhere. Matthew McConaughey, Leo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, I mean they're all terrific.
MORGAN: But let's get go to some of the stories. A female employee shaved her head for $10,000 in front of the paying morbid (ph) stuff, true?
BELFORT: True. To get breast implants. So it was sort of even worse. It was like the whole idea of ...
MORGAN: To get breast implant, she shaved her head for $10,000?
BELFORT: Yes, yes and if they -- I guess that the philosophy was, you know, her hair will grow back and then it would all be perfect in six months. So that that was the -- it's amazing with the rationalization. I think that was -- since that you brought that scene I think that was the scene that it personally disturbed me. And I think it had probably disturbed a lot of people when you see it like that.
MORGAN: It did at a time disturbed you? Or were you just too high ...
BELFORT: Oh, no, no, it was not I was so high, but it didn't start that way it started when we shaved a guy's head for $10,000 and that was really fun. Within a year, head shaving is $50 like the price went down because ...
BELFORT: Well, you become numb and that's what happened with insanity and all the sort of stuff that you do where what seems amazing at first becomes complex after a while. You don't lose your soul all at once. You lose it a little bit at a time incrementally, you know, when I lost my ethical way, it did not start off and I'm sure we'll go that later. But, it's sort of like these tiny imperceptible steps over the line and before you do it, see each time you let him around and moves a bit, and before you know it you're doing things, you thought you never do and it seems perfectly OK. Same thing goes with the head shaving.
So in day one, it was, "Oh yeah, let's shave the guy's head $10,000." He was -- needed the money, it all made sense, it would be fun to crew cut, right? And then a year later flash forward and it's completely off the rails.
MORGAN: Dwarves being thrown onto Velcro dart boards.
BELFORT: Right. Well --
MORGAN: Did that happen?
BELFORT: I wasn't there at that time. So, I didn't throw ...
MORGAN: But you heard it happened?
BELFORT: After I left, yes, yes.
MORGAN: What do you think about that as a ...
BELFORT: Well, I think -- I don't think it's appropriate for sure, you know, I mean obviously I think it would be humorous to watch it as an outsider in a very bizarre sort of way. I don't think it's a sort of -- where that you want to -- let's just say, you know, I don't endorse the practice by any ...
MORGAN: It was said there was so much sex in your office? You had to have a sign above it saying sex free zone.
BELFORT: Right. Well, the problem with that is that we had all these young guys, everyone was 18 to 23. And all the young girls and everyone is making a lot of money, and there's a lot of drugs going around.
So, I don't think it takes much a belief of imagination to figure out what happened next. That it started really with the elevator and, you know, it's when Chris (ph) in the elevator early on and I look back at it now and I can only scratch my head and that I sort of, you know, I would say I was instigating it in a way not that I was responsible for all of it, but by being the leader, it becomes a reflection of what I was at the time and that was it. So, I take responsibility for -- even I wasn't ever there for a lot of it.
MORGAN: Your number two portrayed in the movie by Jonah Hill ate a live goldfish that belong to a Sratton Oakmont, the firm employee, did that happen?
BELFORT: It happened.
MORGAN: You saw him do that?
BELFORT: Yeah. And the thing with that is like, you know, his character was heavily fictionalized. He represents ...
MORGAN: So the real-life guy is who really?
BELFORT: It's a guy named Danny. And in the movie, he represents a bunch of different characters. So in fairness to Danny ...
MORGAN: But did Danny eat the goldfish?
BELFORT: He ate the goldfish though, yes, and he has publicly admitted that and ...
MORGAN: When you watched that happening, I mean ...
BELFORT: It was such a ...
MORGAN: It kind of nadir (ph) of croaking (ph) excess, doesn't it?
BELFORT: Yeah. No doubt. I think that, you know, these things do happen on Wall Street. They just do and, you know insanity happens.
MORGAN: Are they part of the folklore, the legend, the kind of chess beating, again, Gordon Gekko (inaudible) is that what this about really? It's about who can go the furthest?
BELFORT: I think it -- I think that sort of behavior isn't just endemic to Wall Street. I think it's endemic to large groups of men who are drinking or doing any sort of, you know, substances or in a frat house or wherever it might be where, you know, people in such some of the herd mentality, the crowd mentality where people individually never do these things. You put 50 or 100 in one spot and all of a sudden the rules of behavior start to change.
MORGAN: Did you have a chimpanzee in the office handing out mail?
BELFORT: Not mail because they have like -- people had pets in the office. It was an iguana or rattlesnake, you know, buffoons, and you know, all sort of stuff in herd (ph) ...
MORGAN: Jordan, you're saying this like -- these is all perfectly normal. If I came into my CNN office one day with an iguana, a rattlesnake and a chimpanzee, I would be frankly march out of there high speed. You kind of thinking this is perfectly normal? BELFORT: I don't know. I heard some rumors that they have like stuff in Silicon Valley and people do -- they bring their pets to work and have all the sort of free, but for them, it's about free spirit so they can be creative. I think we took in a different direction here. So, I don't think it was the -- I don't think the outcome was as healthy as they had in Silicon Valley.
MORGAN: What was the single most appalling thing you ever saw? Not even you ...
BELFORT: I can't say it on television, but it happened at my bachelor party and I wrote this scene -- when I got late, you know, the scene in the bachelor party ...
MORGAN: So bad you can't even tell me.
BELFORT: Not on air. I'll tell you ...
MORGAN: Can you give me a clue?
BELFORT: It had to do with in act of sexual deprave view. That was so deprave that even I myself was speechless. So, it was about hundred people watching what happened. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life. And at that time, I think there was probably 50 prostitutes there and they said it was the most disgusting they have ever seen. So, it was pretty raunchy.
MORGAN: OK. Let's take a break just so that you could tell me actually what happened and then I'll decide whether we can put it on air.
BELFORT: You can't.
MORGAN: The case is truth being stranger than fiction. The real story of "The Wolf of Wall Street" maybe even more over the top than the movie version.
Back with me now is the man who inspired Leonardo DiCaprio's character. Jordan Belfort spending two years behind bars for securities fraud and money laundering.
I'm getting extraordinary reaction on Twitter. Tweets pouring in good, bad, ugly. Someone here Jake Crawson (ph) tweet me @PiersMorgan with your views and we'll put into my man. And I'm thinking he's saying, "By the look of his face, he looks like he really misses his old life." Do you?
BELFORT: No. Listen, I -- again, I have to see some aspects of the camaraderie. In the early years, when Stratton first started at year one, it was pure, it was beautiful, and I invented the system for training salesman it was legit. We were trying to make our client's money and then it's -- and that was great and I'd loved that. And then it's spiraled out of control and everything happened after that. I do not miss, I mean, especially the drugs, I've been sober for 17 years now and I almost died because of the addiction.
So, I guess sometimes, if you know, I think I have a tendency to smile sometimes I'm embarrassed and I think people might mistake that for me being happy about it. But, you know, I don't miss that life.
MORGAN: There is few saying you know he looks like he's glorying in what happened.
BELFORT: I'm not glorying for sure.
MORGAN: Well, how would you categorize it?
BELFORT: A bit of embarrassment, and you know, putting on brave face maybe.
MORGAN: Do you have shame about it? Do you feel shame?
BELFORT: Not -- it's not -- shame is the wrong word. I think, you go to these different transitions of guilt and shame. And I'm in a stage now of remorse which is really the active form of that or I'm actually doing things right now to make up for any pass transgressions that I've made.
And that guilt is sort of a self-serving emotion where you're like, "Oh, I feel so guilty. I'm not going to -- " And you just wallow off and die versus going out and actually learning from your mistakes and then trying to make them right and so forth.
MORGAN: Let's go back to 1991. This is the home video, made at a house party in the Hampton's in a kind of height of your behavior then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BELFORT: And I'll make one more guarantee
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great.
BELFORT: Six months from now, what you're doing right now is going to be nothing again.
OK, that's the bottom line. The value is only 200 between 400 and actually 400 between 600 and there's still going to be one guy that's going to break that million dollar mark in a month.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I want to get back to the very early days.
MORGAN: When was it you realized you have this ability to sell?
BELFORT: The first time is -- it really started in the meat business. I -- When got out of -- I went to dental school I was there for a day and I dropped out and realized that, you know, that the deans of the golden age of dentistry is over, I'm like, "Oh, really?" Well, then I left because my mom wanted me to be a doctor. So, I thought that happened. And then I ...
MORGAN: They want a dental school and you bail?
BELFORT: Yeah, I bailed.
MORGAN: Because I have apparently guys and you couldn't make -- you couldn't rich too, right?
BELFORT: I, yeah -- I've really, you know, I always want to be rich. I did. I, you know I had the desire. As a hardworking kid. I, you know from the -- pay throughout the age of eight, I did magic shows when I was 12, shovel drive ways at the snow storms. And I hit it big for the first time when I was 16 selling ices on the beach. And I made a lot of money. I put myself through college that way and my parents were always really, really supportive of me. And then when I got out of -- I went to dental school, dropped out, and I answered an ad for selling meat and seafood door-to-door.
And that was a door-to-door sales drive and the first day I broke the company record and something just came over, and then I started speaking, the words just flowed and I knew what to say. And then, I opened up my own business within a month after that and started that -- knowing I had a knack for training salesman. I trained 26 salesmen, I have 26 trucks and I made every mistake a young entrepreneur can make. I over expanded. I was under capitalized. Wasn't keeping track of my inventory and I was out business within a year and a half.
And from there, that's when I got down to Wall Street, but ...
MORGAN: You were bankrupt of it.
BELFORT: Yes, I was bankrupt.
MORGAN: You actually made yourself bankrupt?
MORGAN: Did it teach you anything? I mean ...
BELFORT: Oh my God, I've learned -- everything I know about business stems from the first disastrous mistakes I made because you learned a lot more from your mistakes in life than you do from your successes.
MORGAN: Up to that point, were you legitimate or did you cut corners? Were you unethical? Were you illegal? Must have ...
BELFORT: No, it's -- it was totally legitimate. I was this very, very hardworking guy. I was the sort of guy like we we're on the beach and we were, you know, going blanket to blanket, you know, I would outgross everybody by double because I would get there earlier and run faster and work harder and smile more broadly when I had, you know, people in front because, you know, it's just -- I was a hard worker. So I think that, you know, a lot of success in life, you know, obviously the strategy involved as well but it's also about hard work and, you know.
MORGAN: People have said about, you know, people who know their stuff in this -- in Wall Street and so on have said, "If you had stayed legitimate the entire time, you could have been a billionaire now because you were such a brilliant salesman and such a brilliant motivator, and be able to run a great team that had you just not been so unethical and breaking the law overtime, you would have been everything you'd ever wanted to be?"
BELFORT: They're very smart people. They're100 percent right because that's the shame of it all is that -- and this a, you know, I do lot of speeches at colleges and charity work. And I always say to kids that go into the workplace is that that the biggest mistake that I made is not delaying my own gratification. It was character flaw that I had as a kid. I want everything tomorrow and a lot of kids are like that.
And because of that, I went for the short-term bucks. And very often in business you can make a little bit of extra money by being unethical but it doesn't last. You're building a foundation on sand. And it collapsed because of that. If I would have done it just as you said, I probably worth $10 billion, $20 billion right now. That's for sure.
MORGAN: You went down to Wall Street. And on your very first day in 1987, literally the first day you're there, the company that you're working for goes bust in the great crash which happened that day.
BELFORT: Right. Well not -- OK I will just -- I went down there. It's even worst than that. I went down there and I trained for six months while the market was soaring to the very top.
MORGAN: Do you think you missed this?
BELFORT: And I'm like, "This is it. My days are going to come in.
MORGAN: Your first day as a (inaudible).
BELFORT: ... they broke off October 19, 1987 and just like that it's Black Monday and it's over. So, it was just almost -- it was utterly shocking.
MORGAN: When you say over meaning was it -- didn't the firm went on?
BELFORT: Yes, the firm. Yes, but the thing is it is even worst than that is if you remember back then, the attitude was like people thought it was the next Great Depression. No one knew that the economy would be bounce back and (inaudible) it's going to be 1933 all over again.
So, on the subway right home -- and, you know, the gloom and the doom. And I was absolutely devastated because when I was working and I was broke and I was -- I had no money and I was working for $100 a weekend it would cost me probably more than that to commute into the city back then. But I still had hope because I knew that I could do the job. I'll be a great salesman because I'm already done with the new business.
So, I saw these guys making money. I'm like, "Well, my future is bright." So I felt good even though I was broke.
MORGAN: Before you have the skills in some other way to make money doing what these guys how to be making money.
BELFORT: Correct. And then, when I'm off the crash, it was like every hope and dream I have was dead. And I thought that was over. And I went home that night with my first wife and for about one day I was paralyzed which -- I just couldn't even move. And that I was just so upset about it. Then, we picked up the (inaudible) section and I stumbled upon an ad for a broker term in Long Island.
MORGAN: OK. Hold it there. Let's take a short break because you end up going there. This is the pump and dump operation that it was to become and a lot of victims. So, we may get tough with you after the break, Jordan Belfort.
BELFORT: I deserve it probably.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB REINER, ACTOR: $26,000 for one dinner.
DICAPRIO: Dad we're not poor anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell them about the size.
REINER: What is the size? They cure cancer?
JONAH HILL, DONNIE AZOFF IN THE MOVIE "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET": Besides they cure cancer that's the problem. T hey were there -- that's why they were expensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: A pivotal moment for Martin Scorsese's "Wolf of Wall Street."
And back with me now, the man who lived the real story, Jordan Belfort who's like DiCaprio in that scene. He taught a good game but it all came crashing down when he went to prison for so called pump and dump schemes.
How did this start? You go to this place on Long Island. They're selling little penny stock which is a pretty small as we see in the movie, a pretty dodgy looking operation. So, and compared to what you had come from in Wall Street, they wanted all goes brilliantly. And what do you realize in that moment?
BELFORT: Well, you know, one of the important distinctions I think is the people to know you, especially young people, is that in the movie when I walk into the firm and I get my first look at it, and I sit down. I think Spike Jones plays the manager. And I asked him a question I say, "Is this all legitimate?" And he says to me, "Well, you know ... " well, in truth he said, "Of course, it's legitimate. Look at the license on the wall. We're part of the NASD."
And that's a danger that every kid that goes into the workforce faces, because -- and I -- one of the things I always say in college is that just because someone is out there and they're in a company, they have a license on the wall, you have to use your own gut check to say, "Is this happening ...
MORGAN: And what did you -- in the movie you see ...
MRGAN: ... very quickly what you do.
MORGAN: ... and you're spinning a brilliant line ...
MORGAN: ... to in terms of its ability to be successful brilliant, but not brilliant for the guy on the other end of the phone who is being produced into this deal.
So, very, very quickly in the movie DiCaprio playing you ...
MORGAN: ... crosses that ethical boundary.
BELFORT: Right. In the movie, yes.
MORGAN: Is that what happened in real life?
BELFORT: No, not quite. No. I had no idea. I thought it was 100 percent legitimate. 100 percent.
MORGAN: So, the kind of pump and dump scheme for those who aren't really familiar with it, you know, you basically inflate this penny stocks to be something that they're not in reality. People pump and load the cash and then it all gets dump in and they lose their money.
BELFORT: Right. But the brokers aren't really in on that especially someone just like when I walked in my first ad, you know, I came from a big firm, it was all legitimate. Now, it's lower price stock. So, to me when I'm on the phone pitching, I'm like, I'm just selling another stock. I had no idea there was anything wrong with it at all. And ...
MORGAN: When did you realize it wasn't what it seemed?
BELFORT: About two -- I would say about a month in -- I totally got what's going on.
MORGAN: And is that the ethical moment for you when you crossed the line?
BELFORT: It was -- there was a series of moments. That was the first moment where I allowed greed to get the best of me. Because I neatly said to myself and, you know, in the movie, my wife is already tired of losing people -- my first wife. But in reality I said that to her. I'm sick and tired of this. I can't take this anymore. And part of the reasons why I opened up my own firm is that I thought I could do a better job at it. I thought I could get legitimate companies into a whole different thing and that was really one of the reasons why I opened up my own firm.
MORGAN: When it became as big firm, Stratton Oakmont, and you were making millions and millions and millions, how much of it do you think -- looking back of it, and be completely honest here because you have been about many things, how much of it was legal and how much of it was illegal?
BELFORT: I would say 90 percent was legal in terms of the data it operates, 95 probably, but the five percent was incredibly destructive, and disgusting, and poisoned, everything else.
MORGAN: And you knew that was all happening?
BELFORT: Absolutely. Yes. And not in the beginning, those -- but again, it didn't happen all at once.
MORGAN: But what happened? And here's a fascinating thing about you. You know, you had good parents who were very supportive.
MORGAN: All in your early life, you know, you're an entrepreneur, you're buzzing around, you're selling papers, you're selling ice creams, you know, you're on the beach, you're doing stuff, you're selling meat and stuff and it's all doing great and you're doing all legitimately and you come from good family...
MORGAN: ... and good background. There's nothing there that suggests criminality.
MORGAN: What happened to Jordan Belfort? Why did you become this art criminal?
BELFORT: Well, I think that what happened was is that when you get into this section of Wall Street, it's very easy just sort of rationalizing what you're doing and I rationalized each of my actions one step at a time. And then, one rationalization allows you to cross a line. And then you pull back, doing things right again but you're line of morality is moved so next time you cross, it's a bit further, a little bit further.
And, you know, you could just say, you know, "How did the GFC happen? I had always people that went to Ivy League schools at the biggest firms and the rating agencies, how could people who have degrees in, you know, in economics and a kind of get stepping documents."
MORGAN: And what's the easy answer?
BELFORT: Is that they didn't do it. They didn't lose their soul at once -- a little bit here, a little push there.
MORGAN: Did you lose your soul completely?
BELFORT: You know, I think that's -- it's hard to say because I think that I got to a point in my life where I was probably about as awful as a person as I was capable of being and still walking around. And I felt at that time and to say the least I was able to thankfully, you know, get back to the person my parents sent down into the world, that was another journey to itself, but I think that question have hasn't happened -- hadn't happened with the GFC are those -- all those people on Wall Street, you know, they aren't bad. One little step at a time.
MORGAN: Are you surprised more people in Wall Street haven't gone to prison since the financial crash that we all went through?
BELFOFT: Yeah. I'm a little bit surprised but I understand, you know, why they haven't. I think it's very difficult for the U.S. attorneys, obviously, to make these cases. And it's very, you know, a lot of the props were arcane and a lot -- and part of it was relationship between Wall Street and the government where people that will -- in Wall Street went to the government and changed laws that allowed loopholes to exist for people on Wall Street to jump through and make money. So it was sort of, you know, the legality so it's on that thick -- thin lines.
MORGAN: You were orderedt to pay a $110.4 million for victim compensation fund. As of now, you've paid back how much?
BELFORT: About 12.
MORGAN: About 12 million. Do you have any expectation or hope you'll ever get to pay them all back?
BELFORT: Yeah. Listen, I think this movie -- thanks for that -- is an amazing thing because I'm giving 100 percent of all the profits from the movie and both books. And the book is really good.
MORGAN: You are compelled to give, unless I'm wrong, 50 percent of all your gross earnings straight to payment.
MORGAN: Is that not right anymore?
BELFORT: That's not right. That's...
MORGAN: Was there ever the case?
BELFORT: Yes, for I was on probation.
MORGAN: And now you're off probation and no longer compelled to legally.
BELFORT: Not legally.
MORGAN: But are you continuing to do that?
BELFORT: I'm giving 100 percent of both books, everything, and the movie. And that, you know, you can't say how much it's going to be. Who knows how many copies the book will sell in 15, 20 years, but I think it'll be, you know, many, many millions of dollars. And I'm really happy about that, you know.
MORGAN: Here's -- I want to ask you a little about shame, you sort of dodged that. If you didn't really feel shame, but there are some people, real people, many, many people, thousands, thousands, tens of thousands, who lost a lot of money, if not everything, to your company and to you.
BELFORT: That's not true, though, so...
MORGAN: Why is that not true?
BELFORT: Because we we're calling rich people. We're not calling poor.
MORGAN: Well, let's give you some of them, Peter Springsteel, an architect at Mystic, Connecticut.
MORGAN: He lost half his life savings.
MORGAN: Dr. Alfred Vitt, retired dentist. He lost $250, 000.
MORGAN: One victim called Bob Shearin apparently lost $130,000. He told the telegraph newspaper with this. "His depiction in this movie is annoying and disturbing because it makes him into a more mythical figure and skips reality of what he was about. And what he was about was harming people financially."
BELFORT: I think the movie clearly paints that picture that...
MORGAN: But that's accurate, isn't it?
MORGAN: That you were deliberately...
BELFORT: I'm the first person who admit that I said that.
BELFORT: It's been....
MORGAN: How do you feel...
BELFORT: I admit that 1993. What did I say? I said yes.
MORGAN: I agree.
BELFORT: That year was the work and you print (inaudible) and I consider myself to be the most depraved year of my life.
MORGAN: So, that's why I'm surprised you would then say, you don't think thousands of people lost that money.
BELFORT: You said life savings.
MORGAN: Well, some of them did, right?
BELFORT: I don't know anyone who lost their life savings. You know, the one you that you -- again, I'm not saying that makes it right, but let's just be accurate.
MORGAN: But, how do you feel about these people...
BELFORT: I think it's awful.
MORGAN:... losing a lot of money...
BELFORT: It's terrible.
MORGAN:... in some cases, having their lives completely turned upside down?
BELFORT: I think it's terrible.
MORGAN: On a human level if you -- have you met any of them? Have you met one of your victims?
BELFORT: I have not.
MORGAN: Why not?
BELFORT: No one just sought me out.
MORGAN: Why haven't you sought them out?
BELFORT: You know, I don't want to intrude anybody's life and you know...
MORGAN: Come on Jordan that's a camp out...
BELFORT: No, it's not. I don't think it's appropriate to seek my victims so... MORGAN: You're going to give them -- wouldn't it be part of your self- redemption to actually track some of these people down? We know some of their names. We know what they're saying about you. If you actually called them up and just said, " I actually would like to talk to you. I would like to apologize personally to what happened."
BELFORT: You know, I never really considered before but I think a better way for me is over the next 50 years as I go around the world speak and do my stuff, all the money that flows in. I think action speaks louder than words. And I think by doing what I'm doing here, by turning over a 100 percent of the profit is probably the most genuine thing I could do and I think...
MORGAN: See in a way, what you're doing now, I don't mean this to be too cynical actually because like what -- you're doing the right thing as best you probably can. What I would say to you, if I was being critical is, you're kind of talking about it still as a financial thing to be resolved financially that you can deal with this with money in the same way that at a time you can make money out of these people. It was all money. It wasn't really about human beings.
I supposed my question to you would be that -- and when I read out these names, these are real people...
MORGAN: ... really who have suffered personally badly. But have you ever seen them as human beings or it's part of the issue with the kind of culture that we see in the movie that actually in the end you become suddenly dehumanized?
BELFORT: Oh Piers, I think it's a very good point you're bringing up. And I think that one of the ways I allowed myself to do that was to sort of take a step back and they become account numbers and names versus people. And yeah, I think that's a problem with -- again what happens on Wall Street sometimes, not with everybody but it's a possibility. But, if you think that's how I feel now, then you completely don't know what is in my heart because honestly I feel terrible about what happened.
And yes I was -- if I had shame back then, yes. Now, no, I'm not going to live my life in shame. I think it's a toxic emotion. I live with remorse. And that means I go out and do things actively to make up for the wrongs that I committed in the past. And I think that is, for me, and I think for most people who've made mistakes -- we've all made mistakes. Obviously, I made some really big ones and I've done some really great things as well. So, I try daily to right the wrongs I committed. That's the best I can do.
MORGAN: If I found a few of your victims, would you come and see them?
BELFORT: If you found them, oh yeah, sure I would. Yeah. You want me back on your show again. Is that what you're saying?
MORGAN: Possibly. I think it would be very interesting meeting. BELFORT: Let me go check the ratings first.
MORGAN: Oh no, I find it fascinating that you have never met any of them.
BELFORT: I haven't.
MORGAN: And it has never crossed your mind too.
BELFORT: No. And, you know, it's not that I would be against it at all, in fact. And it's funny that I -- one thing I said to my fiancee, she's an amazing lady and most ethical lady from a great family. And I said to her, when some of the stuff saying that people lost their life savings, if I know it's just not true. I said, I would love if someone found -- if someone really lost their life savings because of me, I would like to meet that person.
MORGAN: What about somebody losing half their life savings like the guy I read out, Peter Springsteel?
BELFORT: Well, again I...
MORGAN: He exists. He's an architect in Connecticut.
BELFORT: That's why all those money is going into the fund. That's what I'm paying them.
MORGAN: Does it make most of it if he lost half of all of his life savings.
BELFORT: Oh, I think it makes a big difference. I think people -- if you take a person at all person who has no money, take all their money, I think that's -- though I feel like -- I don't think that is -- I'm not saying what I did is right. I think what I did is wrong and disgusting and bad...
MORGAN: What does your parents think of it all?
BELFORT: My parents?
BELFORT: You know, I think I'm fortunate that I have amazing parents who love me unconditionally. I -- you know, my mom is one of the most ethical people in the world. She went back to law school at 65, she's -- does pro bono works, she's employer of the year in her 70s. But, you know, she...
MORGAN: So, what does she say to you? And they all unraveled in the reality of what have been going on and...
BELFORT: She said, "We love you and we support you and we're here for you in any way we can be here to help you pick up the pieces of your life and get back on track." And they were.
MORGAN: What else did she say to you?
BELFORT: No judgment.
MORGAN: No criticism?
BELFORT: Absolutely. I think she knew I was -- I think she knew I was hard enough on myself at that point that I didn't need her to criticize me.
MORGAN: Your father, what did he say?
MORGAN: Let's take a short break. When we come back I want to talk about the crash of you, the firm, the feds coming in, they threw it all in dramatic play out on the movie. But also, you in turn wrecked and end up being wire tapped and squealing on your friends and they all go to prison, some of them, Steve Madden and others do more time than you do. I want to get your reactions to all after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICAPRIO: I started my own firm out of an abandoned auto body shop. We were targeting the wealthiest one percent of Americans.
HILL: I love three things. I love my country. I love Jesus Christ. I love making people rich. Hello?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Leonardo DiCaprio, the beginning of his career in the "Wolf of Wall Street," the real life wolf is of course Jordan Belfort who's back with me now exclusively. More and more tweet pouring in, it's getting an extra incredible reaction.
Erin Geiger Smith who was a Reuters journalist. Interesting to what Belfort, he seems very on the edge of everything, honesty, intelligence, remorse Leo played it well. And that will by my take on you is that, you know, you clearly, you've always done everything to such tremendous excess if you like. Now you're in a very different place in your life. And you probably still wrestling slightly with some of these issues, would that be fair to say and...
BELFORT: In what sense?
MORGAN: How best to deal with the feelings you may have of the old Jordan Belfort?
BELFORT: You know it's -- I think for me I'm in a place in my life right now where my -- the business I'm in right now where I go around the world doing seminars, and sales training, and motivations, stuff like that, and entrepreneurship -- I know in my heart that what I'm doing is pure and it's great and it's empowering. And I know so clearly the mistakes I made. And I have it so defined the mistakes that what really caused me to aspire a lot of control.
So for me, you know, I'm at pretty at peace with me on an overall level. That being said, there's a deeper level of me that I don't think I'll ever truly be 100 percent at peace. I don't think I'm built that way. I'm always going to be a bit self-tortured and always going to be a bit insecure about myself and I think most human beings are like that.
I think that is a fallacy about me that I must have been always, you know, one way and always like on the ball. I wasn't. As a kid, I wasn't that secure always and I'm like any other person. I, in some ways, you know, I feel confident otherwise not and I turn a brave face when I'm not.
But the thing I don't let happen is I don't let my fears stop me. I'm going to move into uncomfortable situations.
MORGAN: We're talking about uncomfortable situations, it's an incredible story when you're on this super yacht that you bought and it starts to sink but you've taken so many drugs, you're only reaction is to basically save the drugs and you were getting bailed out by the Italian Navy, who you were friends and so on. And then you just get on to their boat and carry on, taking more drugs and partying. And you've all nearly died.
MORGAN: And then you find that your private jet has also crashed.
MORGAN: So everything's beginning to spiral completely into the madness. And as scene in the movie, this memorable scene where Leo DiCaprio taking too many quellos (ph) and just basically disintegrating before our very eyes which happened, right?
BELFORT: An incredible acting. It thought...
MORGAN: Did you remember that happening or...
BELFORT: Oh my God. Yeah. I remember like -- you know, what I remember -- let's just say what I don't remember is the seven cars I hit. So I thought I made it home without a scratch on my car and then when the police came and arrested me, I went out to my car and it was -- man, I was like, I fainted.
MORGAN: I mean we laughed in the movie when we see these things.
BELFORT: But it's all, I know, and it's weird things...
MORGAN: The other thing is you're very lucky to be alive.
BELFORT: Yes. And I'm walking and killed someone else.
MORGAN: When you got caught, what was the worst moment? Was it the balloon going up, being arrested, was it the court case, was it going to prison, was it the first night in prison, what was the absolute lowest moment for you?
BELFORT: I think the lowest moment for me was not getting arrested. I was honestly somewhat relieved at that point because I knew there was investigation for years. And I already -- you know, my life was changes, I was out of Wall Street, I was doing things right again. But I knew that I had to pay the piper eventually.
So it was almost somewhat of a relief. But then, you know, my marriage unwound very, very quickly after that. And the thought of losing my children and not being able to be with my children that to me was the bottom when the reality of that and then I move out of my house and that is the...
MORGAN: You're portrayed in the movie as a pretty bad father. There'd been lots of reports. You were pretty lousy husband as well, allegations of wife beating and so on. True? Were you a bad husband? Bad father?
BELFORT: I know I was an amazing father and I'm proud of that. So that was.
MORGAN: Always an amazing father?
BELFORT: Oh, I mean listen I had a -- I got sober when my daughter was three and my son was one. And even then before when I was drugged out no one could be a great father but I wasn't always drugged out. And I think the one thing in my -- in the books far more than the movie is my love for my children came through a very strongly...
MORGAN: What's your relationship with them like now?
BELFORT: I was really, really close.
MORGAN: What did they think of the movie?
BELFORT: It was -- and it's good question. I took my son to the movie, he was 18 with my ex-wife together because we want to show him what was true because I never punch my wife in the stomach. That was...
MORGAN: Did you hit her at all?
BELFORT: Well, we had a struggle on the stairs. What happened was is the context was very different. The day -- the time I hit her was the day I got sober which is 17 years ago when we had a struggle on the stairs and I kicked out when she was trying to stop me. And that's true with my daughter and the whole thing where -- but it didn't happen at the end. It happened in the middle of our relationship the day I got sober so...
MORGAN: Well, obviously, I mean I will say it again playing devil's advocate, Jordan, when you say to me I was always a great father, I mean kicking your kid's mother in front of them...
MORGAN: Is not being a great father.
BELFORT: I just said that's when I'm on drugs though you can't be very great -- that's what I said to you, right? I qualified it. That moment was the highest I'd ever been in my life. I hadn't slept in probably two months because of all the cocaine. So yeah, in that blip, of course, when I said I was on drugs. But I got sober and that's the last thing I ever do drugs.
MORGAN: When you took your ex-wife and your kid to the cinema to watch the movie, you're about to finish that story, how did they feel?
BELFORT: Obviously, I mean look my children have seen me come back from jail and all that to build this new life. So my children are obviously proud of me and they know me for the man I am today. At first is that person that they don't even remember because I got sober when they were still, you know, babies. So...
MORGAN: And your ex-wife, what does she feel about it? After being portrayed by...
BELFORT: I think she's...
MORGAN: A fabulous actress.
BELFORT: Actually I think she's very happy for me that, you know, that my life -- you know, I was able to, you know, come back from that as well. And I think she looks back in perspective herself that, you know, it was a crazy time and we didn't even know how crazy it was when it was happening. I can't speak for her but I can see, you know, again, you know, it's this sort of little bit of a time and it seems like it's normal while it's happening but when you look back now and say it's insane and I think she's at peace with it as well.
MORGAN: Let's take a final break. Let's come back and talk about this. This is a pen and then I'm going to get you to sell it to me, Jordan Belfort, because as the movie says, "You can sell a pen as well as you can sell anything else. "So we're going to find out whether you can, if you can sell me this little pen after the break.
MORGAN: Back now is the "Real life wolf of Wall Street", Jordan Belfort. A tweet here from Sam Gustin in Time Magazine, a critical unanswered question comment on depiction that he remained on SCC deal, why do you that if true?
BELFORT: It's not true. So that was fictionalized in the movie. What happened was is when I had that deal with the SCC and I gave that farewell speech I said, "Farewell." and I left. And then, I went out and I was running Steve Madden's shoes with Steve Madden and my partner Danny took over the firm. And -- but in the movie -- and I understand why Terry Winter, the writer, did it because obviously having the movie in the backdrop is much more cinematically pleasing and appealing with everybody so...
MORGAN: But it wasn't about that?
BELFORT: It changed -- it wasn't like that really. So I mean I...
MORGAN: Well, here I asked you are you one of the critical answered question, you just answered it.
BELFORT: Yeah. There you go.
MORGAN: On Steve Madden, he obviously ended up doing more time than you did and you were responsible for that. Did you feel guilt about all the people he went to prison because you basically wiped yourself up and ratted on him?
BELFORT: Not Steve Madden at all. Because number one, Steve Madden, I think he's a great guy and everything but he didn't go to jail just because of me. There was six other people he was doing the same thing with me and it was six people who were together or...
MORGAN: Have you spoken to him since?
BELFORT: I haven't. And then the reason he did more time than I did because I think he got some issues when he was in jail. So that makes sense.
MORGAN: You got less time because you basically ratted out others. How do you feel about that now?
BELFORT: It's a good question and there's two sides to that coin because, you know, what do you -- the part of that says, "Well, I'm supposed to do the right thing and be an upstanding citizen and as crimes committed I should help bring those people to justice." That's really the moral high grounds where I did the right thing.
MORGAN: The other half is you ratting your friend.
BELFORT: The half is ratting your friend, right. So it's a really ethical dilemma.
MORGAN: Could you do the same again?
BELFORT: I think the way I split that was in the movie. I didn't actually rat my friend when I...
BELFORT: ... the time slipped him a note.
MORGAN: You ratted the ones you didn't really like very much.
BELFORT: Well, it wasn't really -- it wasn't that we're very personal friends, I felt -- because that was -- you're right it's a very -- it was incredibly tough ethical dilemma I faced. Out in the end, agent -- the real agent, Agent Coleman, who was an amazing guy, I've nothing but the highest, you know, regard and respect for him -- you know, he was really instrumental in helping me deal with that ethical dilemma and...
MORGAN: No regrets?
MORGAN: No regrets?
BELFORT: It's not that I don't have regrets, of course I have regrets about it but I think I made -- I know that I made the right decision morally and unethically.
MORGAN: OK. In the end, you're a salesman, if you take in a more legitimate party but you're the greatest salesman on the world. Here's a pen. In the movie, we see Jordan Belfort sell a pen. Sell me the pen.
BELFORT: First of all, I'm going to meet you halfway with this and I'll give little sales training here about the trap of selling the pen. So when you tell someone to sell a pen like this is no context to sell you a pen because I don't know anything about you, I don't know what type of pens you use and what not. So when you do this to a sales person, they'll say some really wacky stuff. So the best thing to say is I would say to you, "Piers, how long have you been in the market for a pen?
MORGAN: I'm on the pen for three months.
BELFORT: I see you're looking for a pen for three months now?
BELFORT: Really? And what type of pens do you typically use when you use a pen?
MORGAN: I like a nice easy to use ballpoint pen or something.
BELFORT: OK. So now just -- you know what I'm doing. So, you know, I want to teach a little bit here is that the idea or is that when you sell someone something is you need to be asking questions first to qualify, to find out what's someone's needs are, what they like. The big mistake of salesman, "Pen, this is the best pen in the world, Piers. It writes upside down, almost like devise gravity. It's cheap." Because if you do that, you sound like a moron basically. So.
MORGAN: But are you going to give me truthful responses to...
BELFORT: Well, I...
MORGAN: ... my...
BELFORT: Yes. If you would have said to me, "I don't really use a pen." I said, "Oh really, will you be in the market for a pen over the next few weeks or so?" And so you'd say, "No." I said, "Have a nice day, I'm going to go find someone who wants a pen." I don't want to sell someone a pen who doesn't need a pen.
So the first thing you do is ask questions. How do you use a pen, what kind of pen do you -- so that's the way to really do this correctly otherwise you're basically just little jamming a pen down someone's throat.
MORGAN: Jordan Belfort, the one thing that I've learned tonight it is how to sell a pen from the master salesman. Hey, it's good to talk to you.
BELFORT: My pleasure.
MORGAN: And it's a fascinating thing. That's kind of (inaudible) but I've enjoyed that.