The "Wolf of Wall Street" has signed up as a coach on RagingBull, a US stock-trading training platform that has drawn fire for its high-pressure sales tactics.
Jordan Belfort earned the nickname by offloading worthless penny stocks to retail investors at Stratton Oakmont, the brokerage he ran in the 1990s, which was described as "a quintessential 'boiler room'" by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was sent to prison and barred from association with any broker, dealer, investment company or investment adviser.
Now, he will "share his favourite trading sectors" with retail investors and teach them how to "learn from your mistakes" and "take advantage of opportunities" in a series of videos, RagingBull said on Wednesday. The company added that he would not be giving advice on specific stocks, companies or investment strategies.
Belfort's crimes were chronicled in a 2013 Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. He launched a sales coaching business after leaving prison in 2005.
The announcement of his recruitment comes a day after the US stock market reached a new high, capping a rapid recovery from March lows that has drawn record numbers of everyday investors, including many trading for the first time.
"The market has been flooded with new accounts and traders and a lot of them don't know what they're doing," said Belfort.
RagingBull is not overseen by US securities regulators and is "neither licensed nor qualified to provide investment advice", the company states on its website. Instead, a "team of experts" with no professional investment experience presents online training for annual subscriptions of up to US$2,000 ($3,000), according to the company.
Tutors include Jeff Bishop, who the company describes as "a lifetime member of MENSA, the high IQ society", and Jason Bond, a former physical education teacher who claimed in a promotional video to be "well-known as the top stock trading trainer in the entire world".
The pair launched the Lee, New Hampshire-based company in 2011.
RagingBull has faced criticism over dozens of daily promotional emails sent to customers, delays in providing refunds and for requesting customers to sign non-disclosure agreements before receiving their money back.
The company has been the focus of 148 complaints to the US Better Business Bureau, a consumer rights non-profit group. RagingBull said many of the complaints related to customer service problems and that "almost all" had been resolved after a recent increase in staffing.
Keith Elliott, a retired construction worker in Angleton, a town in British Columbia, tried unsuccessfully 17 times to cancel the auto-renewal feature for one set of services that totalled US$4,000 ($6,000). He has paid the company more than US$14,000 ($21,000) for training over the past three years and said few services have proven useful. "I definitely did not make any money courtesy of RagingBull," he told the Financial Times.
Tom Steel, a retiree in Palm City, Florida, paid US$199 ($303) to receive four trade ideas from Bishop but received only two. His request for a refund was refused until he filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the attorney-general of New Hampshire. "You're constantly being bombarded with emails to sign up to other things that cost thousands of dollars," Steel said.
The company's marketing is "a well-oiled machine", said Sydney Budina, a real estate broker in Miami who paid US$2,999 ($4,570) in 2017 for tips to trade biotech stocks. The following year he was billed for the same amount again despite opting out of the programme. The company offered him a refund in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement, which he refused. He has since launched a website to highlight the grievances of RagingBull customers.
The company said users can unsubscribe from marketing emails and that its customer service staff can help people turn off the auto-renewal feature.
"RagingBull does not hand out stock picks," said Bishop. "We teach strategies and allow for members to observe our strategies in real time. Frankly, some trades just don't win."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020
Written by: Richard Henderson
© Financial Times