Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” told the story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who, after his stock manipulation scheme, went to prison for securities fraud.
On Thursday, it was Belfort who brought allegations of fraud — against the production company that made the movie.
Belfort is suing Red Granite Pictures, which bankrolled the 2013 epic, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, saying he has been damaged by the Malaysian financial scandal that engulfed the company in 2017.
In the 15-page complaint, Belfort’s lawyers said his book and story rights acquired by Red Granite have been tainted by the allegations that the movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was financed by money pilfered from the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad fund, or 1MDB.
When he signed over the movie rights to Red Granite, he didn’t know the company was funded with ill-gotten gains, the complaint said. Red Granite had told him the firm had legitimate investors.
The complaint says he could secure another film deal for his follow-up book “Catching the Wolf of Wall Street” if he were untied from his deal with Red Granite.
He is seeking $300 million in damages. The suit names West Hollywood-based Red Granite and its co-founder Riza Aziz, stepson of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, as defendants.
“Belfort 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 said.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the lawsuit.
Red Granite’s lawyer Matthew L. Schwartz, of Boies Schiller Flexner, called the suit “supremely ironic.”
“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,” Schwartz said in a statement.
Red Granite fully financed “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was distributed by Paramount Pictures. The movie grossed nearly $400 million at the global box office and was nominated for five Oscars, including best picture.
But years later, the movie became embroiled in a blockbuster Department of Justice case, in which prosecutors alleged that Malaysian government officials and their associates stole more than $4.5 billion from the fund between 2009 and 2015. The money was allegedly used to buy luxury goods and make investments, including in Hollywood films.
Red Granite officials said they had no knowledge of receiving tainted funds. In March 2018, Red Granite agreed to pay $60 million to settle its part of the corruption case with the U.S. government.
Aziz last year was charged with laundering $248 million from the Malaysian investment fund. He pleaded not guilty.
Belfort, who founded defunct brokerage Stratton Oakmont, spent 22 months in prison after pleading guilty in 1999 to securities fraud and money laundering. As depicted in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” he defrauded investors with a pump-and-dump scheme manipulating the value of penny stocks.