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Fortune Magazine Stonewalls Exposure of Bethany McLean Perfidy

Summary – This post contains two emails I sent Fortune Magazine regarding Deep Capture’s work documenting an inappropriate relationship between journalist Bethany McLean and hedge fund Rocker Partners. If after reading this you agree that mine were fair questions deserving of reply, then please do me this small service: write Fortune and tell them you think they should answer these questions (you might even post a copy of your email as a comment to the bottom of this post, so there be public record of it):

Managing Editor: Andrew Serwer – aserwer@fortunemail.com

Time, Inc. Communications Director Katy Reitz – Katy_Reitz@timeinc.com

Dear Reader,

When Fortune Magazine contacts me I always respond (excluding unnoticed emails they send at day’s end hours before press-time). Yet Fortune Magazine has refused to comment on  DeepCapture’s documentation of the perfidious behavior of Fortune Magazine Reporter Bethany McLean. Two DeepCapture posts (“Bethany McLean: Your Benefit of the Doubt is Hereby Revoked” and “Rocker Partners and Bethany McLean: the Smarmiest Guys in the Room“) reconstruct how Rocker Partners sought out Bethany McLean to target a firm, took out a large short position 10 days after her cooperation was secured, then doubled down two months later, just three days before Bethany published her hatchet job (a time-line that suggests, of course, that they were privy to the content and timing of Bethany’s article). In addition, Bethany’s  reporting relied heavily upon Spyro Contogouris, a conman, now imprisoned, about whom she spun apologetics while regurgitating his criticisms (criticisms that with the passage of time proved baseless). When the share price of the target company rose, Bethany commiserated with the short-selling hedge fund that had assigned her the story, sending this email:

From: Bethany McLean
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 6:12:48 PM
To: [redacted]
Subject: Re: ffh

Sorry to be a little bad-tempered. This FFH story almost killed me, so I hate hearing that it was pointless. Maybe it’ll be a long, slow thing..

Thinking that Fortune Magazine might be troubled to learn that one of its journalists had provided such white glove service to a hedge fund, I sent Fortune two emails (below) giving opportunity to comment. They have refused. Please read the correspondence below and, if you agree that Fortune Magazine should address these concerns publicly, please let  Fortune know it (following the instructions at the top of this essay).

I thank you in advance for considering this request.


Patrick M. Byrne

On Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:03 PM, Patrick Byrne wrote:

Dear Ms. Reitz,

Happiest of holidays.

Last week I sent you a link to an exposé on erstwhile Fortune journalist Bethany McLean. https://www.deepcapture.com/bethany-mclean/

Today DeepCapture posted the sequel: analysis of the trading records of Rocker Partners (a.k.a. Copper River) confirms that Rocker did front-run Bethany’s story, both shortly after she met with Rocker Partners’ representative Richard Sauer (a.k.a. “Lavaman”, himself a former SEC attorney whose federal career seems to mirror Bethany’s approach to journalism), and then again immediately before Bethany published. https://www.deepcapture.com/rocker-partners-and-bethany-mclean-the-smarmiest-guys-in-the-room/

Note the data in that exposé regarding failures to deliver, and the likely provenance of those failures, in my recent critique of a DowJones reporter (“Carol Remond Tells a Joke She Doesn’t Get“).

I am preparing this as a story to be included in an Overstock email that gets sent to 17 million of my closest friends. It would explain that a crooked hedge fund (since imploded) cooperated with a bent reporter to break the law, the reporter used her offices at Fortune to indulge their illegal acts, that Fortune had been warned of this possibility and engaged in a cover-up, and that Fortune practices shill journalism for favored Wall Street elite, many of whom are crooks (a message that will, I expect, resonate). In short, Bethany’s emails and Rocker’s trading records will be used to demonstrate how the standards of journalism evinced by Fortune are more bent than a streetwalker’s stumble.

I understand the legal ramifications of suggesting to 17 million Americans that Fortune has taken part in a criminal conspiracy, of course, and will happily provide our lawyers’ address for receipt of service, upon request.

On the other hand, an abundance of journalistic caution leads me to contact Fortune once again to offer opportunity for comment, and in particular, to correct me if I am in error. In fact, I would like to offer you the opportunity to respond in up to 50 words that I will commit not to edit or abridge, an offer that is surely more generous than those your publication generally makes (setting aside whatever unknown arrangements it or its journalists make with hedge funds such as Mr. Rocker’s, of course). Please feel free to respond to the allegations above, or the questions below, or simply respond more generally, as you prefer.

I look forward to hearing from you. Until then, I remain,

Your humble servant,

Patrick Byrne

Journalist, DeepCapture.com

PS Please tell [a long-time acquaintance at Fortune] that I return her regards…


From: Patrick Byrne
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 2:22 AM
To: Katy_Reitz@timeinc.com
Subject: Respectfully request on-the-record response

Dear Ms. Reitz,

Please find a blog that DeepCapture posted today regarding 2006-2007 communications between a hedge fund manager and erstwhile Fortune reporter Bethany McLean concerning Canadian financial company Fairfax. I have obtained these communications pursuant to the decision of a New Jersey State court.

As is evident from the emails, the hedge fund manager put Ms. McLean up to the story hoping that a report in Fortune magazine would move the stock down. When the stock instead went up it rendered Ms. McLean’s story “pointless” in her eyes (which makes [sense] only in a world where her “point” was to move the stock down). After commiserating with the hedge fund Ms. McLean expressed her wish that the targeted company’s demise would be “a long, slow thing.”


1) What is Fortune’s policy regarding journalists working with short selling hedge funds to drive down stock prices?

2) Has Fortune conducted an internal investigation into the relationship between Ms. McLean and hedge funds, including the one mentioned in the blog?

a) What were the results of that investigation?

b) Did this investigation have anything to do with Ms. McLean’s departure from Fortune?

3) Has Fortune conducted an internal investigation to determine the accuracy of Ms. McLean’s reporting on Fairfax and on other companies?

a) What was the result of that investigation?

b) Did this investigation have anything to do with Ms. McLean’s departure from Fortune?

4) Is Fortune aware that nearly every story written by Ms. McLean since 2001 was sourced from the same group of hedge funds, and that she never once contradicted their analysis? By Fortune’s standards, does this constitute “balanced” reporting?

5) In one email, Ms. McLean mentions Spyro Contogouris, who was employed by a group of hedge funds to harass and threaten Fairfax executives. After Mr. Contogouris was arrested by the FBI, Ms. McLean continued to characterize him as a credible financial researcher who worked independently of hedge funds. Does Fortune stand by that characterization?

I do not know when I am going to publish, but would expect it would be next week. However, I sincerely wish to represent fairly the point of view of Fortune.

Most respectfully,

Patrick Byrne

Reporter, DeepCapture.com

If this article concerns you, and you wish to help, then:

1) Let Fortune know how you feel about Bethany McLean’s work by writing Managing Editor Andrew Serwer (aserwer@fortunemail.com) and TimeLife’s spokesperson Katy Reitz (Katy_Reitz@timeinc.com) (post copies in the comment section below!);

2) email it to a dozen friends;

3) go here for additional suggestions: “So You Say You Want a Revolution?

Posted in Journalists Tried to Be Players But Became Pawns, The Deep Capture CampaignComments (67)

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