Bloomberg News tried to silence the wife of one of its journalists with a nondisclosure, after his investigation was killed and he was fired from the news organization, according to a new NPR report, which aims to show the far-reaching legal measures taken by Bloomberg News to bury negative stories.
Six years ago, Bloomberg News killed an investigation into the wealth of Communist Party elites in China. After the company opted not to run the article, according to NPR, the reporters working on the investigation were silenced — and so was the spouse of journalist Mike Forsythe, Bloomberg’s former Beijing correspondent, who is now employed by The New York Times.
“They assumed that because I was the wife of their employee, I was the wife. I was just an appendage of their employee. I was not a human being,” Leta Hong Fincher told NPR, revealing that lawyers for Bloomberg News pressured her to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
When contacted by Variety, a Bloomberg spokesperson declined to comment.
NPR’s story comes after Bloomberg’s presidential campaign generated much discussion — and debate by Elizabeth Warren — over this company’s use of nondisclosure agreements, which allegedly concealed allegations of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. During his presidential bid as the Democratic hopeful, Bloomberg said three former female employees could be released from their NDAs, which were signed over the past 30 years. “If any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release,” Bloomberg said during his short-lived campaign.
NPR says Forsythe’s investigation was killed because Bloomberg News was concerned about threats from the Chinese government. Prior to that, Forsythe was part of the award-winning team that in 2012 investigated the accumulation of wealth by China’s elite. It caught the attention of the Chinese ambassador who warned Bloomberg brass against publishing the story, which went to press anyway. Following that article, Forsythe says he and his wife received death threats, but he and his colleagues still pursued their next expose in 2013.
The investigation was ultimately shut down. NPR obtained audio of a private call in which Bloomberg News founder Matthew Winkler was reportedly heard saying, “It is for sure going to, you know, invite the Communist Party to, you know, completely shut us down and kick us out of the country. So I just don’t see that as a story that is justified. … They’ll probably shut us down, is my guess.”
Bloomberg, who was the mayor of New York City at the time, denied that the article was killed during a City Hall press conference.
In late 2013, Bloomberg News suspended Forsythe, accusing him of leaking information about the situation. He was then fired. He signed an NDA when he departed the company, but his wife did not.
“There was no reason why I should have to sign a nondisclosure agreement … because I didn’t possess any damaging material about the company,” she told NPR.