Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Bloomberg Promises 100 Percent Accuracy, Delivers Distortions and Misrepresentations — then Hides from Questions

October 6, 2011
Mr. Jonathan Neumann
Bloomberg Markets Magazine

Dear Mr. Neumann:

You previously wrote to us that Bloomberg Markets’ “goal is to have a story that is 100% accurate.”  To that end, we asked you, prior to publication and in good faith, for feedback on several critical points of sourcing and accuracy to which you did not respond.  Now that the piece has appeared, we would like to ask you again for some basic accountability, as follows:

  1. For several months, your reporter, Asjylyn Loder, misled us about the intent of your reporting.  She indicated the story would be a “corporate profile” about the “broader vision of where the company is headed,” its “biggest successes,” and “how the company has evolved.”  To enhance that deception, Ms. Loder sent us examples of other corporate profiles the magazine had done – articles clearly selected to show they were objective and benign.  Obviously, that approach was never the true intent since, as we learned later, you were at the time leading a team of more than a dozen reporters seeking out any and all hostile sources you could find.  As we documented with Ms. Loder, some of these reporters engaged in dishonest tactics and harassed our employees at work and at home, despite our repeated directives that all inquiriesconcerning current employees come through Melissa Cohlmia.  Why did Ms. Loder dishonestly represent herself this way?  Why did your reporters resort to dishonest and harassing tactics?   As their editor, do you approve of such deceitful and dishonest tactics?
  2. We asked you repeatedly to identify the sources that were making disparagements or accusations about us – based on a commonplace journalism standard.  The ethical approach would have been to provide that information – so that we could know the basis for the allegations and have fair opportunity to respond – but you disregarded the request.  Nevertheless, we provided you with detailed information on several disgruntled former employees that we thought might be misleading you.  As it turned out, some of those  sources were identified and on the record in the actual story – and nearly all the countervailing information we provided was not.  How do you justify hiding your sources and substantiation in this irresponsible way?  Why was the information that contradicted those sources omitted from the story?
  3. We also asked for information concerning anonymous sources cited in Ms. Loder’s questions to us who were quoted as saying another employee had made accusations about Koch.  You refused to identify who the anonymous sources were, and we advised you that made it difficult, if not impossible, to respond to the hearsay allegations.  Once your story ran and we learned that at least one of the anonymous sources was George Bentu, we immediately put forth information that showed this Mr. Bentu’s comments to your reporter were completely inconsistent with his prior written praise of our company’s compliance culture and his prior sworn statements.  Attached is a copy of that letter, which is just a portion of the information we have that calls into serious question anything Mr. Bentu said to your reporters.
  4. If you had not engaged in deception beforehand and you had told us who your source was, we could have provided you this information ahead of time.  Armed with this information, you may have reconsidered relying on Mr. Bentu, given his lack of credibility.  Can you explain to us why you would not disclose this source, when we asked you to identify him and there were such straightforward facts readily available to discredit him?
  5. We have posted the full details (www.kochfacts.com) on how those sources are unreliable and how your reporting on them is at odds with established facts.  Do you have any explanation for why you disregarded this information or any response on the merits of those facts?
  6. The article describes us as “obsessed with secrecy,” since Koch “discloses only an approximation of its annual revenue.”  But couldn’t that characterization just as easily describe Bloomberg, too?  Like us, you are a privately held company and, as far as I can tell, you do not publicly release your full financials.  Again, how do you justify that pejorative description of Koch when your company itself follows the exact same practice, one that is commonplace for private companies?
  7. We have now learned that Bloomberg itself does business in Iran – it has a reporter stationed in Tehran.  Why was this not disclosed in your article?  Further, Bloomberg Businessweek ran an article on Tuesday which challenges many of the premises of your underlying article, including pointing out that U.S. law does not preclude foreign subsidiaries of U.S. multi-national corporations from doing business in Iran.  Please explain how you can run an article that, in its tagline, discusses “[f]lout[ing]” U.S. law, when we informed you beforehand that U.S. law does not preclude foreign subsidiaries from doing business in Iran and your sister magazine was able to easily confirm this?  How did your tagline reflect your intent to achieve “100% accuracy?”

Readers can decide for themselves, of course, whether Bloomberg has the integrity to live up to its promises of editorial transparency.  Accordingly, I’ll look forward to forthright answers to the specifics I’ve provided here.

Sincerely,

Mark V. Holden
Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Koch Industries, Inc.

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