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Coursework Example: Assessing Business Ethical Issues In the Wolf of Wall Street Film

7 pages
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Carnegie Mellon University
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Course work
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The Wolf of Wall Street is a three-hour thrill ride through the business and secular life of a disgraceful stockbroker Jordan Belfort. According to Chandler (2009, 34), Belfort was famous for his unconventional ways of doing business during his tenure on Wall Street. Belforts brokerage company, Stratton Oakmont, was home to the most uncouth and unqualified workers ever employed on Wall Street. Most of Belforts employees were often High School or College dropouts who were ready to use any available strategies to enrich themselves. They were highly driven with the creed for power and money (Fraedrich, Cherry, King, Guo, 2015, 29). Their endless commitment to the success of Stratton Oakmont Company helped Belfort to take the American financial system and the entire Wall Street by storm.

Alvesson (2012) adds that the ability of Belforts employees to make supernormal profits attracted a plethora of investors from larger regulatory boards and financial institutions. However, Belfort was later on indicted and found guilty of multiple unethical practices including stock manipulation and money laundering. The two issues ultimately led to the downfall and ultimate closure of Belforts brokerage company, Stratton Oakmont (Dean & Beggs, 2016, 15). This paper provides a summary of the films plot, identifies the associated business ethical issues, and offers a critical assessment of the business views and values presented in the film. In the process of doing so, the paper also considers some of the characters and judges them in regard to their reasoning, actions, decisions, and moral values.

Summary of the Plot

The Wolf of Wall Street is an exhilarating film that talks about a 22-year-old businessman, Jordan Belfort who ends up securing a low-level job at a well-established Wall Street firm (Jackson & Parry, 2011, 22). Initially, Belfort was a decent and honest man with a strong desire to gain the highest level of success for his family. Belfort saw the need of empowering his family through immeasurable success as a commendable goal to achieve. Nonetheless, his advent to the firm introduced him to the punitive and unreasonable reality of that which took place in Wall Street (Fraedrich, Cherry, King, Guo, 2015, 27). Belfort's employer and supervisor, Mark Hanna is an influential wealthy but a morally corrupt leader who exposes him to several atrocities including alcohol drinking and drug addiction.

According to Alvesson (2012, 44), Belforts greed for power, money, success, money, and high reputation compelled him to succumb to the antics of his superior despite his unwillingness to follow his superiors footsteps. Belfort now transforms into a debauched and voluptuous person. His strong love for money and power makes him develop an extreme appetite for alcohol, sexual promiscuity, and drugs. The Wall Street firm starts to experience continuous losses and failures to meet its objectives leading to permanent closure as a result of Belfort's unethical business practices (Dean & Beggs, 2016, 20). Consequently, Belfort loses his job and decides to heed to his wife's initial advice which sees him get another job as a stockbroker in penny stocks.

Mensah (2013, 12) ascertains that Belfort's new occupation was characterized by high commissions, rising supernormal profits with low regulation. As a result, Belfort developed a more aggressive pitching style characterized by lies and corruption to increase his final commissions. His fictitious character and strong persuasion skills enabled him to convince numerous clients to invest in his company which saw him make a lot of money. He also decided to form his personal company known as Stratton Oakmont where he employed many salespersons to use unscrupulous means to make more money (Fraedrich, Cherry, King, Guo, 2015, 35). Most of these employees lacked moral values and were ready to use any available illegal means to make money and gain power.

According to Chandler (2009, 13), Belforts success and reputation attracted a plethora of investors from all walks of life. His unscrupulous means enabled him to create an influential stock brokerage company which acted as his brainchild in the pursuit of accumulating wealth. The company drew the attention of large investors who commanded respect across the United States propelling him into an influential millionaire. Belfort eventually evolved into a financial monster driven by his eternal love for money and greed for power which made him a cruel and a brutal manager (Dean & Beggs, 2016, 25). His increasing greed for drugs, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity led to his arrest by the FBI.

Ethical Issues Associated with The Wolf of Wall Street film

There are critical business ethical issues that can be spotted from this film. The first issue regards poor management of the Stratton Oakmont which eventually led to its closure (Jackson & Parry, 2011, 36). The companys management team comprised Belfort and his accomplice Donnie Azoff, who was Belforts most loyal companion and closest friend. Belforts unethical business management philosophies were strengthened by a variety of his addictions including drugs, sexual promiscuity, and most importantly the greed for money (Chandler, 2009, 19) Similar to the theory of needs developed by McClelland, classification of Belforts motivation proved to be an easy task.

According to Alvesson (2012, 55), Belfort's ambitions were driven by the need for achievement and power, which raised more ethical concerns as he had no concern for effective management of his company and the employees at large. In fact, Stratton Oakmonts strategy of employing college and high school dropouts for manipulation was a great way of violating business ethics. It is imperative to argue that Belforts desire to achieve success consequently created his need for power. However, his motivation immediately changed from evolving into a successful and influential securities broker into a mastermind of corrupt deals as he sought to rise through the ranks stockbrokers on Wall Street (Fraedrich, Cherry, King, Guo, 2015, 30). This change of desire and ambition was a direct violation of the recommendable business ethical practices.

According to Alvesson (2012, 12), Belfort's motivation also agitated him to develop a Machiavellian personality, where he viewed his customers and employees as cogs in his influential Ponzi scheme. An example of this individualistic personality can be seen in two different instances. The first one is the type of clients that Belfort chose to focus on. During the opening of his brokerage, he first developed a script that every employee was supposed to observe when engaging with customers on phone. Surprisingly, Belfort never sought to explain the effectiveness of this technique (Dean & Beggs, 2016, 40). During this scene, Belfort called one of the customers he believed to be rich and proceeded to recite the fraudulent script and manipulated him into buying the stock that he had no prior knowledge.

According to Dean and Beggs (2016, 44), Belforts persuasion highlights his manipulative nature and is further noted in the next instance. One can see how Belfort manipulated his workers through his fictitious management styles. He sought to lead by example by insisting that employees had a professional obligation to live outside their means and do what they can to solely direct their focus on shallow and materialistic possessions. It was unethical for Belfort to encourage his employees to be concerned with living up to his expectations while not putting into consideration whether the means to the end were unethical (Jackson & Parry, 2011, 45). Most of the employees became ambitiously engaged in the management of Belforts company that they did not recognize their promotion of unethical practices.

Critical Analysis and Characterization

A critical assessment of The Wolf of Wall Street film shows how poor management of organizations can enhance immorality and lead to a violation of the recommended business ethical practices and ultimately lead to permanent failure (Chandler, 2009, 34). A plethora of the characters who took part in the casting of this film engaged in different forms of business ethics violation. Jordan Belfort was the lead character and the owner of Stratton Oakmont. Belfort was manipulative and decided to use his company to employ unscrupulous and unskilled workers to exploit different investors to create more money and resources (Jackson & Parry, 2011, 56). He was motivated by individualistic views which saw him become a drug addict, an alcoholic, and a sexual promiscuity.

Belforts friend, Donnie Azoff also emulated his illicit characters and encouraged each other to manipulate the company investors at their benefit (Mensah (2013, 15). Similarly, Mark Hanna, Belforts employer and supervisor at the Wall Street firm provides the best example of a manipulative leader. Despite the fact that Belfort was unwilling to follow his footsteps, Hanna managed to convince him to evolve into money driven monster. In addition, he encouraged Belfort to engage in unscrupulous practices telling him the role of a stock brokerage was to make money and gain supernormal profits despite putting into consideration the need for engaging in ethical practices (Jackson & Parry, 2011, 34).

Chandler (2009, 43) adds that Stratton Oakmont employees represent another group of characters whose values and attributed accounted for the greatest violation of the existing business ethics. Most of these employees were driven by the need to heed to the calls of their manager without understanding the moral implication of their actions. They would strictly follow each and every step taken by Jordan and the other company leaders. They continuously worked in a ruthless environment with the hopes of their living standards (Mensah, 2013, 34). The notion that stockbrokers exclusive job is to make money allowed Jordan to encourage his employees to engage in a plethora of unethical actions that would bring their company down later.

According to Alvesson (2012, 45), poor organizational management also encouraged unskilled and unprofessional employees to join Stratton Company to help Jordan achieve his dreams. As a result, employees engaged in unethical practices by taking huge sums of debt to purchase clothes, cars, and mortgages as encouraged by their employer. Most of them began defaulting on their loans and were consequently trapped as they could not continue living in their previous lavish lives (Jackson & Parry, 2011, 67). Most of these employees lost their jobs as a result of obliviousness caused by lack of experience and poor educational status.


The impact of moral and ethical failure of business leaders and managers in the contemporary society carries more weight and magnitude than those of their subordinates. This great effect is associated with the public status they acquire through their work and the overall trust imposed on them by their subordinates. Jordan Belfort, one of the lead characters in The Wolf of Wall Street film provides the best example of leaders whose moral failures have been criticized across the world. Jordan collaborated with other fraudsters to run an errant business company that could later fail and expose him to a financial problem proven by the FBI.

Jordan, Azoff, Hannah, and Stratton Oakmont Company employees provide the best example of the characters in The Wolf of Wall Street film which led to proliferation of business ethical rot. Despite the fact that Jordan knew the negative consequences of his unscrupulous wealth acquisition mechanisms, he encouraged his employees to use illegal tactics to gain wealth...

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