The wife of a former Bloomberg News journalist says she was threatened by company lawyers who pushed her to sign a non-disclosure agreement after editors killed an investigative story her husband was working on about Chinese corruption.
Leta Hong Fincher, writing in The Intercept, said the incident more than six years ago “shows the lengths that the Bloomberg machine will go to in order to avoid offending Beijing” — an important point, given that company founder Michael Bloomberg is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and, if he beats President Trump, will have to confront an expansive, aggressive China.
She writes that the news company, Bloomberg LP, is “so dependent on the vast China market” for business that lawyers threatened to financially devastate her family if she didn’t agree to sign an NDA “silencing me about how Bloomberg News killed a story critical of Chinese Communist Party leaders.”
In 2012, Fincher writes, she was a Ph.D. candidate in sociology attending Tsinghua University in Beijing, while husband Michael Forsythe was the primary author of a Bloomberg News piece regarding the vast accumulation of wealth by relatives of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The “Revolution to Riches” series her husband worked on was an award-winning effort that, initially anyway, did not seem to rankle the editorial staff at the news organization. But that would soon change.
Shortly after the first article was published in June 2012, Fincher claims that her husband began receiving death threats allegedly from a woman who said she represented a relative of the Chinese leader.
She said that the wife of another reporter, Evan Osnos of The New Yorker, was similarly threatened by the same woman over his award-winning book, “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China.
Her family spent their children’s summer vacation from school outside of China, but the entire time Bloomberg officials were always on the phone with Forsythe discussing ways to maintain the family’s security.
In October, Fincher tweeted about the death threats as a way of publicizing them so she and her family would be safe. But within hours, a Bloomberg manager called her husband and implored him to get her to delete the tweets, which she did not do — though she never tweeted about the death threats or spoke about them publicly again. (Related: Michael Bloomberg vows to shut down all U.S. coal plants, plunging America’s power grid into darkness, unleashing “third world” riots across America.)
Nevertheless, Fincher said she constantly worried about the safety of the couples’ children, then ages 6 and 8. But by August 2013, Bloomberg moved them out of Beijing to an apartment in Hong Kong, and she thought she could finally breath easier. Not so.
My husband had been working for many months on another investigative report for Bloomberg about financial ties between one of China’s richest men, Wang Jianlin, and the families of senior Communist Party officials, including relatives of Xi. Bloomberg editors had thus far backed the story. A Bloomberg managing editor, Jonathan Kaufman, said in an email in late September 2013, “I am in awe of the way you tracked down and deciphered the financial holdings and the players. … It’s a real revelation. Looking forward to pushing it up the line.”
But then, suddenly, Bloomberg editors killed the story and her husband was fired after after comments by Bloomberg News editor-in-chief Matt Winkler were leaked: “If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China.”
After that, it didn’t take long for Bloomberg lawyers to begin threatening Fincher and her husband with financial ruin over a story they commissioned him to write. In the end, she refused to sign an NDA and had to hire the same legal team that represented NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden before Bloomberg’s legal team finally backed off.
But the bottom line is this: If Michael Bloomberg’s company is so indebted to Chinese money, how is he going to treat Beijing as president? We think we know the answer.