In The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), how did the FBI get the yellow note that Jordan gave to Donnie toward the end of the movie?

The note that told Donnie not to incriminate himself because Jordan was wearing a wire.

There was no mention of it after that or any explanation and nothing to suggest Donnie gave it to them.

  • 1
    I agree that the FBI must've gotten the note from Donnie. But there's an implication to all this that has so far gone unremarked on: If the FBI found out about the note, wouldn't they then be able to invalidate Jordan's deal for a lenient sentence? Convicting him was never going to be a problem. The case against Jordan was, as the US prosecutor said, Grenada. A foregone conclusion. So shouldn't Jordan have gotten 20 years? Instead he got three. Why?
    – user8961
    Apr 7, 2014 at 0:28
  • The entire scene was fictionalized. Jordan and Danny got indicted on the same day two years after Stratton closed. Jordan passed that note to someone else. Made for good cinema though. lol
    – user9904
    May 31, 2014 at 22:17

5 Answers 5


OK, so I think LTrain's answer is correct, but perhaps DustinDavis needs an answer that is fleshed out into further detail in order to be satisfied.

Reasons Why the film indicates Donnie has collaborated with the FBI:

1. Edit Composition

The scene that immediately follows Jordan's final arrest begins with a shot of Donnie systematically erasing the files on his computer, looking nervously around the office. This is in anticipation of the FBI showing up at the office, as he is already erasing the data before they walk in. He could only have known they were coming if he'd had prior knowledge. If Donnie had found out about this impending raid through a source other than the FBI, and was as such still loyal to Stratton Oakmont, he would have shared this information in order to enable some kind of damage limitation procedure, or at least advised his brokers to do the same. The raid comes as a surprise to the rest of the company, or they are at least caught off guard, indicating they didn't know.

The only reason Donnie wouldn't have told them, is because he would have had to be forthcoming in how he obtained the knowledge of the premises search, which would have publicly outed him as a collaborator.

2. Jordan's Reaction to seeing the post-it note

This scene is ultimately the moment that Jordan finally does become 'The Hypocrite' he was fearful of when talking to Stratton Oakmont employees, the moment when he gives in. It's not neccesarily prompted by the fact that the FBI has incriminating evidence on his contempt of court (that sort of litigious impropriety has failed to phase him at all so far), but by the realization that he is alone, and has no-one left.

He immediately realizes, as we the audience are in turn supposed to , that the only person who could have submitted the post-it as evidence against him is Donnie, meaning his best friend has ultimately betrayed him in order to cut a deal with the FBI.

Jordan doesn't argue, or resist, or question how they obtained the note, because he knows, and this is the catalyst that ultimately provokes his surrender.

3. That the post-it is even Admissible as evidence

A piece of paper with the words "I'm wearing a wire. Don't say anything incriminating" would not be sufficient evidence to hold anything together in a judicial court, without a witness to explain the context of it and how it was deployed: That Witness could only be Donnie.

Without Donnie identifying that specific piece of paper was passed to him by Jordan during their lunch, its ultimately worthless. Without the tacit co-operation of Donnie, Jordan could deny all knowledge of ever writing/having/passing the note.

The FBI would of course know this to be so. Jordan knows this. Denham knows that Jordan knows this. It's what makes the scene so powerful.

4 No one else could plausibly have gotten hold/known about the post-it

Since we know that the FBI didn't have any surveillance inside Stratton Oakmont (which is why they needed Jordan to go in with a wire), we know they didn't have the building bugged in any way. This isn't because it's not technically possible (We're all living in the post-Prism world, we know what the authorities are permissible of in getting what they want), but because it doesn't make any sense for them to double bluff Jordan like that.

If they had obtained a subpoena and bugged the building, they would have already yielded enough evidence to incriminate all of the Stock Brokers. The fact that they have to vie for it as part of their deal with Jordan indicates it was a valuable asset they were trading off against for a sympathetic/collaborative case with Jordan. They simply wouldn't have pushed for something they didn't need, and wouldn't have been able to authorize such an invasive type of intelligence gathering for no gain: so we can deduce they didn't have the building bugged. Elementary, Watson.

The only people in the room whilst Jordan and Donnie are speaking are themselves, and there is no indication that anyone else is watching/listening nor any reason for them to be.

If there were some secret spy somewhere listening into conversations, Scorcese would either draw our attention directly to their presence (to explain they were being observed) or draw our attention to the fact there is a logic gap in the sequence of events, I.E there is ambiguous information left somewhere, missing. He does neither, choosing instead to draw attention to Donnie: the culprit.

Donnie covers the post it with his napkin, indicating that he understands Jordan.


It is also a way of concealing the post it from Jordan; hiding it is Donnie symbolically saying 'I will deal with this', meaning both the 'problem' presented by the post it note and the post it itself.

Jordan obviously didn't take the note with him, because it ended up with the FBI, meaning he would have had to hand it over to the FBI himself, which makes no sense.

So it's reasonable to assume Donnie was 'left with' the note.

The note was his responsibility, and from that point no one could have plausibly come in contact with it without Donnie's complicit permission.

In summary, there is just far too much evidence and far too many narrative and editorial elements to assume anyone other than Donnie to be the culprit. Scorcese is guiding us to that conclusion directly, and doesn't raise any information that questions the fidelity of this conclusion.


Donnie gave it to them. He cut a deal. That's why he knew the FBI were coming and was deleting files when they arrived at the offices.

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    I think this is correct, the only person who would have known about that note is Donny, so the inference is he ratted Jordan out in order to cut a deal. The real 'Donny', Danny Porush, only assisted the FBI with the knowledge of Jordan Belfort, however.... Jan 27, 2014 at 12:34
  • I do think that someone in the office was a rat, but no signs pointed to Donnie. Who called the FBI to tell them Jordan decided not to step down? Maybe the same person who gave them the note? It makes sense that Donnie was the only one able to do this, but do you have any other evidence (circumstantial or not)? Jan 27, 2014 at 14:43
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    @DustinDavis, who else could have known about the note, and whatsmore, who could have obtained it? Even if Donny told someone about it, they wouldn't plausibly be able to get hold of the post-it note without Donny being complicit in the process: it's not something he'd leave lying around or discard carelessly unless he wanted it to be found. The FBI obviously didn't have surveillance in the building, because they had to utilize Jordan to get a wire inside, let alone monitoring equipment. It could only have been Donny. Jan 27, 2014 at 22:19
  • @DustinDavis.. Whoops, sorry didn't see this! I thought you were waiting for more evidence, so went on an deductive excursion below! Jan 28, 2014 at 0:24
  • I agree with this, and I wonder if there was any real-life counterpart to this betrayal. Apr 9, 2014 at 18:20

Jordan did it for Donnie, so that Donnie would know to cut a deal. It's because Donnie was like family to him. The note itself helped reveal to Donnie what he needed to do in order to keep outbid prison.


Donny is an amalgamation is certain characters who were not in the film, but rather taken from the book. Jordan Belfort actaully gave the note to a child-hood friend called Dave beall (who is not mentioned in the film, amongst other many "players" in the saga) who was involved with his money laundering activities.

One a side note; Jordan thought Dave ratted on him out to the FBI after giving him the note and thuslly ratted Dave out, when in-fact dave got drunk and told someone about Jordan's Swiss connections who already was co-operating with the FBI in Jordan's criminal case.

Read "The Wolf of Wall Street" & "Catching the Wolf of Wall Street" both by Jordan Belfort; the latter of which is much more detailed on the ins-and-outs of the Stock game and his life after the FBI arrest him - just as crazy as the five years prior.

  • Welcome to Movies & TV. Unfortunately I fail to see how this adresses the actual question and you might want to point out in which way it does.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jun 5, 2014 at 21:47

They where in a restaurant, and it's kinda strange to take a napkin home with you, right? Furthermore, the FBI would probably check the restaurant after the meeting to be sure Jordan didn't pull such an obvious trick as writing stuff on a piece of paper. Especially if they where watching his conversation. So Donnie didn't gave them the napkin, but he was stupid enough to leave it there (or in the garbage).

  • 4
    They weren't in a restaurant. They were in Donnies office (Jordans former office) which makes it a lot harder for the FBI to just walk in and find it.
    – Travis
    Jan 27, 2014 at 9:20
  • Really, damn. But still not impossible. If dealing with the FBI you should be aware you are being watched
    – invalid_id
    Jan 27, 2014 at 12:20
  • @JohnSmithOptional np, just be careful, they are always three steps ahead ;)
    – invalid_id
    Jan 29, 2014 at 7:02

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