Amongst the many feature films vying for Oscar glory this year, The Wolf of Wall Street is up in the ranks contending for five awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor and Supporting Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill respectively. The movie centres around the real life events of Jordan Belfort, a New York stock broker who initiated a penny stock brokerage Stratton Oakmont, a lucrtaive front for an illegal ‘pump and dump’ scheme that saw Belfort and his co-conspirators banking millions in revenue. Despite the near accuracy in Martin Scorsese’s depiction, the individual that actually led to the shutting down and prosecution of Stratton Oakmont was omitted from the film, and he happens to be a 2nd generation Maltese!
Meet Joseph Philip Borg, an American financial regulator who has been the Alabama Securities Commissioner since 1994. Professor Borg is the child of two Maltese immigrants Philip J. Borg and Dorothy Borg née Chircop. He has been very successful in his role, especially when you consider the fact that he brought down Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont in his first year as Commissioner!
Forbes magazine has nicknamed him “Wall Street’s Worst Nightmare”, as he is the main individual leading state sanctioned investigations on illicit behaviour at Wall Street, including conflicts of interest between investment banks and corruption cases where analysts cover up for their clients. His remit lies in his role as president of North American Securities Administrators Association. His efforts led to a $1.4 billion settlement with prominent firms including Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns.
While many Maltese people will feel some dismay at not hearing a local surname being used on the big screen (so close!), they should take comfort and some pride in being so well represented through this man’s actions. Joseph Borg would have probably been another average member of the workforce had his parents never left Malta, especially when you consider him to possess the most commonly used name and surname in the nation. Worse still, he could have ended up being of the group of individuals he has spent most of his life fighting to impeach – the corrupt Maltese elite composed of politicians, developers and thereof.
However, Joseph Borg also presents an interesting and relevant question to me: does he represent a rare talent barely visible in Maltese society, or is he an individual that simply thrived in a country that does not limit its citizens as a result of limited opportunity?
Either way, Thank God for immigration and ‘The Huntsman of Wall Street’!