The real “Wolf of Wall Street“, Jordan Belfort, who was immortalised by Hollywood after serving jail time for stock market fraud, will be teaching sales techniques to business people in Zurich. Not everyone is pleased to see a convicted criminal passing on his secrets.
Belfort is due to give a motivational talk in Zurich on May 13 to an audience stumping up CHF799 ($792) per ticket.
The Wolf of Wall Street movie, starring Leonardo di Caprio, features debauched parties with dwarf throwing competitions, high-class hookers and copious amounts of drugs – not to mention ripping off small investors out of their life savings. Based on Belfort’s memoirs of his time as boss of Stratton Oakmont, the film depicts a world of greed and loose morals – while adding a dose of Hollywood fiction.
According to the promotional material, the audience at the Samsung Hall in Zurich on Saturday will receive a different message from the man who bore a large part of the blame for costing investors $200 million when Stratton Oakmont closed down in 1996.
Participants will hear “the eight skills you must know for business, sales entrepreneurial success”, “the four rules of entrepreneurship” and “mastering the hidden language of influence” from the man who claims he “really did crack the code on how to persuade anyone to do anything”.
“In the wrong hands, these persuasion tactics could be used to manipulate your customers and the people in your life,” Belfort warns in thepromotional literatureexternal link. “Trust me, I’ve been there. That’s not how I encourage you to use what I’m about to share with you. In fact, I insist that you use it ethically.” Belfort was sentenced to 22 months in jail for a range of offences.
However, Florian Wettstein, Director of the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St Gallen, said the highly publicised seminar is “highly problematic” despite Belfort’s contrite messages. “What he appears to be saying is ‘I have mastered the art of manipulation and I will teach you how to manipulate people, but I don’t take responsibility for how you use it’,” Wettstein told swissinfo.ch.
“The underlying assumption is that his aggressive sales techniques are indeed just a set of techniques and that they were completely disconnected from the misconduct [at Stratton Oakmont]. This is a fundamentally flawed assumption.”
Wettstein is also troubled that Belfort is being promoted for the event as the “real Wolf of Wall Street”, linking his past to the forthcoming motivational talk in a more glamorous than contrite way.
Event promoter Benno Burkhardt told swissinfo.ch that he has also sold blocks of at least 100 tickets to large Swiss insurance companies and around 40 to a leading retail chain. Some people will also come from Germany and Britain to attend the event, but the majority of tickets have been sold to small and medium sized Swiss firms or individuals.
Benno expects at least a quarter of the 2,000-capacity venue to be filled by students. What is less clear is whether students are more attracted to the Wolf of Wall Street or the 90% discount they have been offered to attend the event.