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Press Release

2019 Excellence in Financial Journalism Award Winners Announced

Maya Lindsay
Published Date:
May 29, 2019

NEW YORK — (May 29, 2019) — The New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2019 Excellence in Financial Journalism (EFJ) Awards.

This award recognizes reporters from the national and local press whose work was published, posted or broadcast in 2018, contributing to a better and more balanced understanding of business or financial topics.

Winners were selected by a panel of judges comprising NYSSCPA members and financial journalists, who ranked submissions on accuracy, quality and thoroughness of research, as well as on a fair and balanced representation of the topic. This year’s winners will be honored during a luncheon ceremony on June 7 at the Tribeca Grill in New York City.

2019 EFJ Award Winners:

Excellence in Financial Journalism Book Award: Ken Bensinger, “Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal.” In Red Card, Bensinger reveals how IRS agent Steve Berryman found out that the financial records of Chuck Blazer, a FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) official, were under FBI investigation via a Google alert. Berryman then teamed up with the FBI and learned that Blazer engaged in tax evasion, money-laundering and wire fraud. After pleading guilty, Blazer cooperated with the FBI, which led to several FIFA officials being arrested.

Audio (Small Media): Eleanor Klibanoff, Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting; Jeff Young, Ohio Valley ReSource; and Jim Morris, The Center for Public Integrity, won for their investigative piece, “Fatal Flaws: How Kentucky Is Failing Its Workers.” Over the course of six months, these reporters, along with 43 others, investigated and revealed how Kentucky’s worker safety program, Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health (KOSH), failed to properly investigate almost all on-the-job deaths from fiscal year 2016–2017. Throughout their investigation, they visited the families of those lost on the job.

Audio (Medium/Large Media): Francesca Levy, Bloomberg News produced a podcast series called, “The Pay Check,” discussing women, work, money and, most importantly, the current gender pay gap. Throughout each segment, The Pay Check series team explored the history, causes and consequences of the gender pay gap, as well as changes that could be made to help close this gap. They also spoke to women who refused less pay during their careers, such as comedian Mo’Nique and Lilly Ledbetter, and shed light on key countries and companies that are changing laws, hiring practices and social norms in order to create pay equity.

Enterprise Reporting: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 13 West African reporters and editors, published, “West Africa Leaks,” one of the largest collaborations of business reporters ever assembled in West Africa. Thanks to data from past ICIJ investigations, (Paradise Papers, Panama Papers, Offshore Leaks and Swiss Leaks), reporters were able to discover Swiss bank account details, contracts and passports of West Africa’s top politicians and entrepreneurs. They also analyzed financial statements that exposed multinational corporations that are engaging in tax avoidance, financial crime and corruption in West Africa.

General Reporting: Phil Wahba of Fortune, for “Retail Reckoning.” After spending a decade on the retail beat, Phil Wahba, a Fortune senior writer, debunks the common misconceptions of the brick-and-mortar retail demise. In his article, Wahba discusses how private equity investors in the retail sector have impacted key retail stores positively—such as Canada Goose, the company behind the signature parkas with the polar bear logo on the arm—and negatively, as many buyout firms were behind bankruptcies at retailers such as Toys “R” Us. Wahba also profiles two department stores, Kohl’s and Nordstrom, to learn how they are adapting to the online shopping era.

Local: Matthew Dolan and David Jesse in the Detroit Free Press, for “In Donors We Trust,” the two-year investigation that uncovered a financial conflict of interest between University of Michigan’s $11 billion endowment and its donors. Dolan and Jesse discovered that many of the university’s top donors were executives at some of the nation’s top investments firms, and learned that the University of Michigan invested up to $4 billion in those companies’ funds. After revealing some of the most lucrative investments made, donors pledged to return campaign contributions, and policy changes to college affordability were also pledged.

NextGen Reporting: Anne Sraders, The King’s College‘s, in the Empire State Tribune, for “Despite Beating Earnings Expectations, Snapchat’s Losing Popularity Among Students.” Following a brief overview of Snapchat’s recent stock history, Sraders goes on to discuss the app’s declining user count and speaks to those in Snapchat’s demographic (Gen Z and millennials) in order to get insight on the reason for the decline.

Visual Design: The Center for Public Integrity’s Gordon Witkin, Dave Levinthal, Carrie Levine, Chris Zubak-Skees and Sameea Kamal, for “Tax Breaks: The Favored Few.” Following the passage of the new tax law known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), many tax extenders were included in the bill but went unnoticed by the general public. In their investigation, The Center for Public Integrity delve into more than 30 of these provisions by studying each tax break and revealing its purpose. For each of these provisions, graphics were created and direct readers to the corresponding tax break.

Public Service Reporting: Zachary Mider, Zeke Faux, David Ingold and Demetrios Pogkas from Bloomberg News, for “Sign Here to Lose Everything,” which focused on the cash-advance industry and how lenders are taking advantage of the legal document known as the confession of judgment, which gives up borrowers’ rights to defend themselves if they are taken to court. Lenders can also accuse borrowers of not paying without proof and legally seize their assets without notice. Following a case where more than $52K was seized from a small business owner using this method, Bloomberg News analyzed New York state records and discovered that cash-advance companies have obtained more than 25,000 judgments against borrowers across the country by using confessions. This exposure triggered an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office. Bipartisan bills were also introduced in the U.S. Senate and in the House, calling for a ban on the use of confessions.

Public Service Reporting: Implant Files Reporting and Data Team from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Associated Press, NBC News, AVROTROS and more than 50 other media partners, for “The Implant Files.” In November 2018, this reporting group published their yearlong investigation, revealing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) faulty medical device approval system. They found that FDA regulators have rushed approvals, lowered safety standards and hid critical information, which resulted in hundreds of thousands people disfigured, disabled or dead. Artificial hips that corrode flesh and poison blood, spinal-cord stimulators that shock and permanently injure, and surgical mesh that cuts into tissue, causing chronic pain and bleeding, were among some of the FDA-cleared medical devices found during this investigation.  A day after the investigation went live, then FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb made an announcement that the agency would reform its approval process. Along with the huge policy changes by key U.S. regulators, “The Implant Files” also sparked major reform pledges overseas.

Opinion: Shira Ovide, in Bloomberg Businessweek, for a series of opinion pieces focusing on Amazon’s retail takeover and corporate America’s response to this takeover. In, “How Amazon’s Bottomless Appetite Became Corporate America’s Nightmare,” Ovide discusses how in the last  three years, Amazon has transformed itself from an online retail shopping site selling books, electronics, and music to a juggernaut company that has established a place and/or interest in almost every industry, such as parcel delivery, banking and pharmaceuticals. Due to its growth, investors and executives who work in these once untapped industries are wary of becoming ‘Amazoned,’ or phased out due to Amazon entering their market.

Video (Large): Aki Ito, Victoria Blackburne-Daniell and David Nicholson, Bloomberg News, in “Next Jobs,” a six-part documentary covering those in various industries and careers of the future. The three episodes included in the submission featured Abdoul Salam Nizeyimana, 27, who launches and retrieves self-flying, blood-carrying planes in rural Rwanda via the world's first commercial drone delivery service; Danielle Ishak, 28, a human-robot interaction researcher at Intuition Robotics, who studies the way early testers interact with the company’s robot named ElliQ, designed for retirees and the elderly; and Meghan Young, 33, a social media influencer who gets paid by companies to promote and endorse products on social media, making up to $1,500 per feed post.

Video (Medium Media): Solly Granatstein, John Carlos Frey, Marisa Venegas, Greg Gilderman, Shawn Efran, Neil Katz and others from The Weather Channel and Telemundo, with Efran Films, for “Hidden Cost.” This investigation explored the effect of climate change on children who work on farms and other outdoor areas in the United States as a way to make money for their family. During their investigation, the reporters visited Texas and spoke to an American family, the Anguianos. While documenting the family’s life and labor, they were able to get key insight on the state of child labor and how it’s effecting children’s education and health during harvest season.

Video (Small Media):  Suncoast Business Forum, WEDU PBS, won for the two-part video series, “Tampa Bay: Innovation on the Rise,” which was presented at Tampa Bay’s annual Synapse Innovation Summit in March 2018. As the Tampa Bay area becomes a growing location for innovation and entrepreneurship, this program informed viewers about the innovation ecosystem present in the area, and highlighted those present at the summit.  Part 1 focuses on Synapse co-founder, Marc Blumenthal and how he bridged the gap between startups and angel investors via his company. Part 2 focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship in the Tampa Bay area.

This year’s EFJ Awards judges were Scott M. Adair, Gary Belsky, Mary Jo Brancatelli, Rumbi Bwerinofa-Petrozzello, Anthony W. Cummings, Frederick K. Getz, Richard Hecht, Elliot L. Hendler, Iralma Pozo, Susan Rodetis, George I. Victor, Michael A. Zaydon and David Zweighaft. The 2019 EFJ book judges were Justin Baer, Susan M. Barossi and Leah Spiro.

About the NYSSCPA

Founded in 1897, the NYSSCPA is the premier professional accounting association for more than 24,000 members residing and practicing in New York State, encompassing all areas of public practice, including government, education, health care, real estate, technology, entertainment and industry. It is the oldest —and the third largest—such state society in the United States.