Rising / The Hill (4/24/20)
NPR correspondent David Folkenflik shares in-depth reporting on Mike Bloomberg’s decision to kill an investigation into the wealth of Communist Party elites in China.
Bloomberg News Killed Investigation, Fired Reporter, Then Sought To Silence His Wife
By David Folkenflik
Michael Bloomberg’s short-lived presidential bid reignited a long-simmering dispute over the widespread use of nondisclosure agreements at American corporations — especially at his own.
His namesake company, Bloomberg LP, has used nondisclosure agreements broadly to conceal allegations and silence complaints from employees of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment, as published reports have documented.
The story of one Bloomberg reporter and his wife showcases the widespread use of such legal restraints at the company — and how far their reach can extend.
Six years ago, Bloomberg News killed an investigation into the wealth of Communist Party elites in China, fearful of repercussions by the Chinese government. The company successfully silenced the reporters involved. And it sought to keep the spouse of one of the reporters quiet, too.
“They assumed that because I was the wife of their employee, I was the wife,” the author and journalist Leta Hong Fincher tells NPR. “I was just an appendage of their employee. I was not a human being.”
Fincher is married to the journalist Mike Forsythe, a former Beijing correspondent for Bloomberg News who now works at The New York Times. In 2012, Forsythe was part of a Bloomberg team behind an award-winning investigation into the accumulation of wealth by China’s ruling classes.
The Chinese ambassador warned Bloomberg executives against publishing the investigation. But Bloomberg News published the story anyway. Afterward, Forsythe received what he and Fincher considered death threats relayed through other journalists. He and Fincher moved their family to Hong Kong, believing it to be safer.
Even so, the reporting team pursued the next chapter, focusing on Chinese leaders’ ties to the country’s richest man, Wang Jianlin. Among those in the reporters’ sights: the family of new Chinese President Xi Jinping. The story gained steam throughout 2013.
In emails sent back to Bloomberg’s journalists in China seen by Fincher, senior news editors in New York City expressed excitement.
And then: radio silence from headquarters. That story never ran. …