The wife of a former Bloomberg news correspondent says the company spiked her husband’s investigative piece about Chinese communist party elites to protect its business interests, and then tried to silence her into signing a non-disclosure just as he had done.
“They assumed that because I was the wife of their employee, I was the wife,” journalist Leta Hong Fincher told NPR in a story that was published Tuesday. “I was just an appendage of their employee. I was not a human being,” she added.
Fincher is married to former Bloomberg News Beijing correspondent Mike Forsythe. He was part of a team who published an award-winning investigation into the wealth of members of the Chinese ruling class in 2012, which Fincher says earned their family death threats and made them move to Hong Kong.
In late 2013, a follow-up story on the country’s richest man and his ties to elites, including President Xi Jinping, was suddenly cut, with Bloomberg editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler and other editors saying that additional reporting was needed to run the story.
However, NPR obtained an audio recording of Winkler explaining on a conference call that the country’s communist party could “shut us down” if it were to run.
“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,” Winkler said on the call. “So, I just don’t see that as a story that is justified.”
After the first story ran, according to NPR, China held up not only processes Bloomberg’s news division, but the leases for state-owned businesses’ Bloomberg terminals, the machines that earned former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg so much of his money.
Eventually, Forsythe was benched, then fired, after being accused of leaking about the situation to other outlets. He signed an NDA, but his wife Fincher didn’t. Fincher says Bloomberg News tried to pressure her into one.
“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 said. Later, she added that Bloomberg News assumed Forsythe would be able to “silence” her.
“That’s not the kind of relationship that we have,” she said.
At the time, Michael Bloomberg denied that the 2013 story was spiked. The topic of his company’s use of non-disclosure agreements came up again during his unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.
At the February 2020 debate, then-candidate Elizabeth Warren attacked Bloomberg over his use of non-disclosure agreements in settlements with former female employees who brought sexual harassment lawsuits against his company.
“They decided when they made an agreement that they wanted to keep it quiet for everybody’s interest. They signed the agreements and that’s what we’re going to live with,” he replied. Days later, Bloomberg said the female employees would be released from their NDAs.
A spokesperson for Bloomberg News declined comment on the NPR piece.
You can listen to NPR’s report above.