Kicked out of finance, and into journalism

By Felix Salmon
November 18, 2009
byline on Bloomberg News stories. Whitney was fined $55,000 last year by the CFTC and is subject to a permanent injunction, after being charged with false reporting and attempting to manipulate natural gas prices.

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Up until yesterday, Michael Whitney was a presenter on Bloomberg TV; he would occasionally get his byline on Bloomberg News stories. Whitney was fined $55,000 last year by the CFTC and is subject to a permanent injunction, after being charged with false reporting and attempting to manipulate natural gas prices.

Is it OK for a financial services professional who has run into major trouble with the law to simply move over to journalism and cover the same asset class there? Henry Blodget certainly thinks so: the former technology analyst is now publishing earnings estimates on his website despite being barred from ever doing exactly that for the securities industry.

At the very least, one would hope that any such journalism would come with extensive disclosures and disclaimers. Blodget was happy to do that when he was writing for Slate, but there’s nothing that detailed at the Business Insider. Instead, his bio there goes into no real detail at all about his fines and banishments:

From 1994-2001, Henry worked on Wall Street at Prudential Securities, Oppenheimer & Co., and Merrill Lynch. He ran Merrill’s global Internet research practice and was ranked the No. 1 Internet and eCommerce analyst on Wall Street by Institutional Investor and Greenwich Associates. He was later keelhauled by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over conflicts of interest between research and banking.

At Bloomberg, there was no disclosure at all of Whitney’s past. Whitney, a freelancer, was fired by Bloomberg yesterday, along with other freelancers on the TV side. Bloomberg’s spokeswoman, Judith Czelusniak, refused to answer questions about whether Bloomberg freelancers are held to the same standards as full-time employees, whether it is acceptable for journalists to have run into this kind of trouble with regulators, and whether or not the discovery of Whitney’s past was the reason for his dismissal.

My feeling is that there are enough highly-qualified journalists looking for work out there that it’s not necessary to bring into the journalism industry people who have been dishonorably kicked out of the securities industry. But if you are going to do that, at least be open about it.

Update: Of course none of this is as bad as Thom Calandra’s bio where he’s plugging his latest investment newsletter:

Thom co-founded and was the editorial spirit of CBS MarketWatch, MarketWatch.com and FT MarketWatch in Europe.

As the voice of Thom Calandra’s StockWatch and The Calandra Report, Thom fancied $300-ounce gold before that metal became an investment rage.

Not mentioned at all is the fact that he was fined $540,000 by the SEC for pumping-and-dumping illiquid stocks while atThe Calandra Report. But I don’t really consider investment newsletters to be journalism in the first place.

(Thanks Otto)

Update 2: Henry replies, and I reply back.

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