There’s no spoilers here, so relax – just a few handy things you should know about Wall Street and our global financial system before you watch “Wolf of Wall Street,” one of the best films of 2013. Read this list and impress your friends.
1. Swiss banks are known for their secrecy rules, but citizens are fighting back: Everyone knows Switzerland’s reputation when it comes to banks: It’s where the rich – like Jordan Belfort, who gained his money by illicit means – can hide their millions (or billions), no questions asked. But fed-up Swiss citizens are fighting back. This year, the towns of Hedingen, Hausen, Mettmenstetten, Affoltern am Albis, and Obfelden voted to send some of the tax revenue made from suspected corrupt business practices back to the developing countries where the profits were made.
2. Phantom firms are real: When Jordan Belfort “put some of his money” in the Bahamas, he most likely created a phantom firm to launder his money. Phantom firms are fake companies set up to hide the identity of the dodgy business execs who own them. Some of them have really silly names like “Beautiful Vision, Inc.” “Sweetwater Malibu,” “Capitana Seas, Ltd.” and “Ebony Shine International, Ltd.” After hearing the F-bomb 508 times in “Wolf of Wall Street,” I don’t even want to guess what Jordan Belfort’s phantom firm would be called!
3. Yes, people really do hide their money in the Bahamas: The Bahamas – where Jordan Belfort hid his money – is a tax haven. Basically, it’s a state, country or territory where certain taxes are levied at a low rate or not at all, making it great for rich companies or individuals to set up shop so they can have as much money as possible. Other places that are tax havens? The British Virgin Islands, Delaware, Cayman Islands, Channel Islands, Bermuda, Dubai, Andorra… too many to name!
4. The SEC’s job is to regulate, not bust companies for illegal financial crimes. There’s a scene in “Wolf of Wall Street” where Jordan Belfort’s lawyers explain why the Securities and Exchange Commission isn’t what he should be afraid of – but the FBI. The SEC’s job is to protect investors, maintain fair markets and facilitate capital information – and that’s why if you want to make a change within the system (increase transparency in the oil and mining industry, for example), talk to the SEC. The FBI is who you go to to make arrests.