If there was one thing that blew up in Mike Bloomberg’s face at the recent Democratic debate in Nevada, it was the nondisclosure issue. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) came out swinging. And it didn’t stop. She pummeled Bloomberg over the allegations. It wasn’t made any better by Bloomberg saying nothing was really in there, except for maybe a joke he told that some might find offensive. What was the joke, Mike? He came off as unlikeable, cold and just plain entitled. Like, why do I even have to debate these people; just give the nomination to me and stop asking me about these NDAs.
Well, for one woman, there’s a reason why these NDA stories should be told. She was subjected to the wrath of the Bloomberg empire—even though she wasn’t an employee. Her husband was the former reporter, but she knew things, had information in her head, that must be locked and sealed. If she didn’t sign, they threatened to destroy her family financially. It’s all detailed in her story for The Intercept.
In 2012, Leta Hong Fincher and her husband, then-Bloomberg News reporter Michael Forsythe, lived in Beijing, China where he reported on a story that probably irked the nation’s communist party. No, it did. One of them was how President Xi Jinping's family was getting insanely rich. Fincher was working on her Ph.D at Tsinghua University.
In the meantime, her family received death threats for the Xi story, and they wanted to move to safety in Hong Kong. The article states that as soon as Fincher tweeted that they were receiving death threats. It was only one tweet, which Bloomberg’s lawyers demanded it be deleted. Fincher did not tweet again about this, due to the fact that they needed Bloomberg LP’s help to relocate but added she didn’t delete the post either.
They were relocated to Hong Kong. The publication noted that while in Hong Kong, Forsythe worked on another story about ties between a wealthy Chinese businessman and several top Chinese Communist Party officials, his boss gave him a pat on the back saying he was in “awe” how he tracked down the players and their financial information. Yet, there were also worries that Bloomberg would be kicked out of China over it. The story was killed, Forsythe was dismissed, and then came the NDA nightmare (via The Intercept):
In August 2013, I finally relaxed as we flew out of Beijing and moved to a temporary apartment in Hong Kong. I thought that our yearlong nightmare had ended. But things would soon get even worse.
My husband had been working for many months on another investigative report for Bloomberg about financial ties between one of China’s richest men, Wang Jianlin, and the families of senior Communist Party officials, including relatives of Xi. Bloomberg editors had thus far backed the story.
Then Bloomberg killed the story at the last minute, and the company fired my husband in November after comments by Bloomberg News editor-in-chief Matt Winkler were leaked. “If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,” Winkler reportedly said on a company call.
Mike Bloomberg, then New York City mayor and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, was asked on November 12, 2013, about reports that his company had self-censored out of fear of offending the Chinese government and he dismissed the question.
“Nobody thinks that we’re wusses and not willing to stand up and write stories that are of interest to the public and that are factually correct,” Bloomberg told a press conference.
Yet, days after Bloomberg made those comments to reporters in New York, Bloomberg lawyers in Hong Kong threatened to devastate my family financially by forcing us to repay the company for our relocation fees to Hong Kong from Beijing and the advance on my husband’s salary that we took out, leave us with no health insurance or income, and take me to court if I did not sign a nondisclosure agreement — even though I had never been a Bloomberg employee.
I told my husband’s lawyer that I did not want to sign a gag order, so Bloomberg summoned me and my husband to a meeting on December 16 at Mayer Brown JSM’s office in central Hong Kong. We sat around a fancy conference table with some Bloomberg senior editors and Mayer Brown lawyers and spoke via videoconference with a lawyer from Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, representing Bloomberg in New York. My husband’s lawyer said that I did not possess any recordings or emails that might be damaging evidence about the company’s practices.
The thought of Bloomberg possibly ruining our family financially if I didn’t give in to their threats made me sick, but I was also infuriated that they had kept us in harm’s way.
“But what about all the evidence that is in her head?” said the outsized man on the video screen.
It was only when I hired [Edward] Snowden’s lawyers in Hong Kong — Albert Ho and Jonathan Man offered me a low rate because it was a “good cause” — that Bloomberg finally backed off. In the meantime, they had sent me several more threatening letters.
Now, the story does have a happy ending. Fincher completed her doctorate; Forsythe was hired by The New York Times and the story that Bloomberg killed was placed on the front page in April of 2015. She said that even writing this account still makes her nervous.
“It’s clear that there has been an environment of sexism at Bloomberg’s company. Bloomberg managers and lawyers treated me as though I were a piece of company property, an appendage of my husband, using intimidation and threats to try to bully me into submission,” she wrote. “I agonized over whether to sign the NDA and I remember feeling physically suffocated…I haven’t met any of the other women, but I imagine that they, too, may have experienced the same terror of being threatened by a multibillion-dollar corporation.”
I don’t think this story is going away. And with how Mike reacted to it on the debate stage, you bet people want to know more. Ronan Farrow is already trolling for leads.
As always, if you have a newsworthy tip about any of the candidates on stage tonight, my email is: email@example.com— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) February 20, 2020