Spooky Economy

   Knowledge Dispels Fear

If we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honor.— William Shakespeare

Introduction

Mark Pittman was an awarding-winning [23][24] investigative reporter who had worked for Bloomberg News [9]. He wrote many articles covering corporate finance [2][12][18]. He was known for having a strong "BS detector" [19] from his prior work as a police-beat reporter [9][14].

His collegues considered him to have had a “Jedi-like command of economic issues" [4] and a lively and entertaining way in relating his discoveries. [11] He would speak excitedly to fellow reporters on what he learned and would try and educate them about some of the complex things that bankers do. [10] “He forced us to learn what a credit-default swap was. He dragged us kicking and screaming”, recalls Emma Moody, a Wall Street journal editor and one-time Bloomberg co-worker. [10]

During his time covering Wall Street, he came see the self-reverence of the financial industry as nothing more than a front put up by very skilled carnival operators [11] and that the respect given to them by outsiders was misplaced. While most financial reporters “knew their place” due their inability to understand the complex issues they were covering [11], Pittman broke things down, and boldly reported in a way that could be understood by a wider audience [22].

His work included how U.S. Banks exported toxic mortgages. [22] He also wrote articles on how bankers might shortchange taxpayers in the TARP bailout program [12][18]. Pittman also wrote important investigative articles disclosing how taxpayers received unfair deals in the how the bailout was administered and how information on deals was not being disclosed [2][12][18].

His reporting on the breakdown of the U.S. Mortgage industry which won him the Gerald Loeb Award from the UCLA Anderson School of Management [14].

Pittman's reporting sometimes came with “push back”.

In June of 2007, Pittman wrote an article entitled “S&P, Moody's Hide Rising Risk on $200 Billion of Mortgage Bonds”. It essentially called out the ratings agencies for having given high ratings to investment products that were based on faulty mortgages. His discovery tturned out to be the subject of a future Senate investigation. But at the time, Portfolio.com writer Felix Salmon denounced Pittman's article saying that the reporter was “trying to play 'gotcha' with the ratings agencies.” [10] Later, though, Salmon issued a posthumous apology and offered warm words of praise for Pittman's insightful work. “His loss to the profession is irreplaceable”, he wrote. [21]

Bailout Funds Not Known To The Average Citizen

In the later part of 2008, as the economic crisis began to publicly unfold, the Federal Reserve began passing out the bailout money and giving additional guarantees of more money to the banks that were in trouble. Pittman and his colleagues decided to make a list all the Federal Reserve's programs and their dollar amounts. When they were done, the total amount was staggering. [8]

The American public had understood that TARP (the bailout program for that banks) would be $700 billion dollars. This was the amount widely reported by the American news media. In total, though, $12.8 trillion was offered in direct support or as "insurance" - over 18 times the $700 billion of the TARP program. [8]

In addition to TARP, it turns out that taxpayer money had been put up as a guarantee against future losses by the banks. So, as long as everything went well, the money would not be drawn. But if another crisis rattled the economy, the guarantee could quickly turn into a multi-trillion dollar taxpayer obligation. [8]

Sues Federal Reserve For Information

Pittman wanted to know more about how this large amount of money was distributed or how it would be distributed [2]. He asked the Federal Reserve using the Freedom of Information Act [2][4]. (This is the usual way that this sort of information is requested.) But even after making repeated requests, Pittman was not provided the information he needed.

In November 2008, Pittman filed a federal lawsuit to force them to provide the information provided [1][3][20][22] just like the Freedom of Information Act required.. The specific questions in the lawsuit were: Who got the money? How much? What did they put up for collateral? How would it be repaid? [4]

The Federal Reserve fought giving out the information on the grounds that telling the public who got the money would make the banks that got it look bad. [4] A number of banks joined the Federal Reserve to keep the information secret [4].

But, in August 2009, a Federal District Court judge Loretta Preska ruled [9] that the Federal Reserve must provide Pittman the information he had requested. Pittman died unexpectedly three months later. [10]

The Federal Reserve appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in March 2011 the Court rejected the Federal Reserve's appeal and left intact Preska's order that the information should be released within five days. [13]

Pittman had won.

Personal Concerns

Mark Pittman died unexpectedly [4] at his home (?) on November 25, 2009 [10] at the age of 52. He reportedly suffered from heart-related illnesses. [10] As of this writing, the exact causes of his death has not been reported in the mainstream media [22].

According to close friend Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge, days before his death Mark had met with Zero Hedge staff to discuss a major financial exposé he was working on. [16]

He is survived by his wife, three daughters, two brothers and their parents. [22]

If you are aware of any publicly accessible news items that report on Mark Pittman's exact cause and location of death, please us know at any of the email addresses on this site. Thank you.

Quotes

Mark Pittman proved to be the most fearless, most trusted reporter on the most important beat during the 12 years he wrote about credit markets, corporation finance and the Federal Reserve at Bloomberg News. –Matthew Winkler, Editor-in-Chief, Bloomberg News [10]
He had an unerring sense of the big story. –Alan Grayson, Former U.S. Representative, House Financial Services Committee [10]
I always learned something new when I spoke with Mark. He was dogged in pursuit of the truth. –Rep. Scott Garrett [10]
He was one of the greatest financial journalists of our time. –Joseph Stiglitz, Novel Prize-winning economist. [14]
I grieved what I heard that Mark died... I will missing have Mark as a source of information for questions at Financial Services committee hearings. And I know our democracy will be poorer for the loss of a great reporter. –Rep. Brad Miller [11]
We are sure Bloomberg News will keep Mark's spirit alive, and will continue his lifelong pursuit of eliminating secrecy and opacity, and bringing truth and justice to all corners of high finance. –Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge [16]
He's been on this crisis since before the crisis. –Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times Pulitzer-prize winning financial columnist. [10]
[Mark Pittman] was just a guy who really didn't have any fear and he wasn't intimidated by the central bank of the largest economy in the world. –Bob Ivry, Bloomberg News Report and Pittman collegue [8]
We'd be all better of if there were more reporters like Mark Pittman looking out for America's interests against those in our government and our banking system that would seek to exploit the taxpayer for their personal enrichment. –Dylan Ratigan, MSNBC Morning Meeting anchor [15]

Resources


PBS - The True Cost of the Bailout


MSNBC - Dylan Ratigan - Reporter Who Sued the Federal Reserve Dead

  1. Document: Bloomberg Complaint vs The Board of Governors (Bailout Watch, November 25, 2008)
    URL: http://www.bailoutwatch.net/resources/foia-requests/bloomberg-complaint-vs-board-governors-federal-reserve-system
  2. Document: Fed Refuses to Disclose Recipients of $2 Trillion (Bloomberg News, December 12, 2008)
    URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=apx7XNLnZZlc
  3. Document: Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (Solari, November 7, 2008)
    URL: http://solari.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/court_document-bloomberg_lp_vs_fed.pdf
  4. Document: Battle Over the Bailout (New York Times, February 12, 2010)
    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/nyregion/14fed.html?_r=1
  5. Document: Seeking to crack the Fed's secrecy around the bank bailout (GATA, February 14, 2010)
    URL: http://www.gata.org/node/8329
  6. Video: Mark Pittman Remembered (YouTube "mb2000", December 6, 2009)
    URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZkLXCZRBKY
  7. Document: Document Title
    URL: http://
  8. Video: The true cost of the bank bailout (PBS, September 7, 2010)
    URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPgwNdzvhG4
  9. Document: Mark Pittman (Wikipedia, April 15, 2011)
    URL: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Mark_Pittman
  10. Document: Mark Pittman, Reporter Who Challenged Fed Secrecy, Dies at 52 (Bloomberg News, November 30, 2009)
    URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=alcABq2uaBOc
  11. Document: Remembering Mark Pitmann (Huffington Post, November 30, 2009)
    URL: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-miller/mark-pittman_b_374322.html
  12. Document: TARP Warrants Show Banks May Reap 'Ruthless Bargain' (Bloomberg News, May 22, 2009)
    URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=ae2fQFMrDer4
  13. Document: Fed Will Release Bank Loan Data as Top Court Rejects Appeal (Bloomberg News, March 21, 2011)
    URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-21/fed-must-release-bank-loan-data-as-high-court-rejects-appeal.html
  14. Document: Reporter Who Challenged Fed Found Dead (Current TV, December 7, 2009)
    URL: http://current.com/news/91631270_bloomberg-reported-who-challenged-fed-found-dead.htm
  15. Video: Reporter Who Sued The Federal Reserve Dead (MSNBC [Dylan Ratigan], December 14, 2009)
    URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2Hdz9oytsA
  16. Document: Mark Pittman, A Close Friend... (Zero Hedge, November 27, 2009)
    URL: http://www.zerohedge.com/article/mark-pittman-close-friend-great-reporter-and-first-person-sue-fed-and-win-has-died
  17. Document: And somewhere, Mark Pittman is smiling (Blog on the Run, March 19, 2010)
    URL: http://blogontherun.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/and-somewhere-mark-pittman-is-smiling-at-least-for-the-moment/
  18. Document: Paulson Bank Bailout in ‘Great Stress’ Misses Terms Buffett Won (Bloomberg News, January 10, 2009)
    URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aAvhtiFdLyaQ&refer=home
  19. Document: Audit Interview- Mark Pittman (Columbia Journalism Review, February 27, 2009)
    URL: http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/audit_interview_mark_pittman.php
  20. Document: How the Fed and the Treasury Stonewalled Mark Pittman to His Dying Breath (Pam Martens, November 16, 2010)
    URL: http://www.counterpunch.org/martens11162010.html
  21. Document: Mark Pittman was right (Reuters, November 28, 2009)
    URL: http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/11/28/mark-pittman-was-right/
  22. Document: Reporter foretold effects of subprime mortgage crisis (Washingon Post, November 30, 2009)
    URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/29/AR2009112902718.html
  23. Video: 2010 Hillman Prize for Newspaper Journalism (Hillman Foundation, June 1, 2010)
    URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9y7iNXJKWk
  24. Document: 008 Gerald Loeb Award (UCLA Anderson, undated)
    URL: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/x30783.xml

Posted April 18, 2011 Revised (n/a)

This is my opinion. It's a work in progress. I hope it's helpful.

© 2011 Spooky Economy. All rights reserved.