Remember when NPR got all huffy-puffy when Lisa Simeone, the host of World of Opera got in trouble and stuff because she supported Occupy Wall Street by hate-playing La bohème (which is an Italian communist opera based upon the popular American musical Rent) over and over until banksters started to feel twinges of guilt that they quickly got over by strangling a hooker in the back of a limo? Yeah, there was some kind of ethical/conflict of interest thing problem, by which we mean the financial institutions who underwrite NPR were mildly chafed by Simeone’s obstreperousness.
Well say hello to Adam Davidson of NPR’s Planet Money and the New York Times who knows the difference between who signs the front of the check and who signs on the back:
Adam Davidson is the co-creator and host of the popular economic news radio program Planet Money. On air, Davidson plays the role of an earnest, brainy reporter who’s doing his best to make sense of the complicated, jargon-filled world of finance to report business news in a way that NPR listeners can understand. However, behind the dweeby, faux-naive facade Adam Davidson presents to his listeners, is a shrewd propagandist with a long, consistent history of shilling for powerful and destructive interests—and failing to disclose his financial ties to the companies and industries he reports on.
While Adam Davidson has recently come under increasing scrutiny for using his NPR platform to promote the narrow interests of the super-wealthy in this country, little attention has thus far been given to Davidson’s corruption—his numerous financial conflicts of interest that seriously undermine his claims to being a journalist, and instead reveal Davidson as a glorified product spokesman for his Wall Street sponsors.
You see, Adam Davidson’s sonorous business gabfest is sponsored exclusively by Ally Bank (the artist formerly known as GMAC) and they are kind of bad people:
To understand why Davidson’s arrangement with Ally Bank is so odious, a little background is needed. Ally Bank is a subsidiary of Ally Financial, a giant financial services company formerly known as GMAC. There’s a good reason why GMAC would have wanted to change its name to “Ally Financial” after the financial collapse: The bank is one of the biggest mortgage servicers in the country, and has been one of the very worst offenders in foreclosure fraud and in the very same subprime fraud that Davidson whitewashed as a “blameless” phenomenon. GMAC deserves far more blame—and jail time—than any of the subprime borrowers it fleeced and ruined. Since GMAC collapsed in late 2008, it has received more than $17 billion taxpayer bailout funds in a series of bailouts. As of August 1, 2012, 74% of Ally Financial was still owned by the U.S. Government. [ 1 ]
At the time Ally signed its sponsorship agreement with Planet Money, the bank was being investigated across the country for foreclosure fraud, robo-signing fraud, and student loan fraud. Even as bad bailed-out banks go, GMAC/Ally is considered one of the worst, most tainted of them all.
Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that Davidson is some kind of bank-fellating manwhore, does it?
One example: In 2009, just as Planet Money inked its exclusive sponsorship deal with Ally Bank, Davidson began broadcasting a number of segments critical of the proposed Financial Consumer Protection Agency Act of 2009, questioning the need to regulate consumer financial products like mortgages and credit cards in order to protect people against bank fraud. “Will it work at all?” Davidson asked in one of his fake “gee-whiz” questions. “Is this just one more layer of regulation in a regulatory system that fundamentally broke down?”
In May 2009, in the heat of the banking industry’s massive pushback, Davidson essentially mugged Elizabeth Warren, the chief architect of the financial consumer protection bill, in an interview that took a sharp and bizarre hostile turn early on. Davidson surprised Warren and his own listeners with uncharacteristic personal smears, trying to portray her as a clueless, power-hungry ideologue. Davidson’s attack on Warren was so out-of-line and uncharacteristically hostile that it sparked a torrent of criticism from NPR listeners who couldn’t understand why Davidson or NPR would do such a thing.
Okay, maybe he is. So what’s up with that, Adam Davidson?
The Columbia Journalism Review described the Planet Money interview as a “disaster” and “really cringeworthy stuff from Davidson,” who was so rude and unprofessional that NPR’s Ombudsman was forced to issue a public apology for his behavior. Davidson’s excuse: he had been traveling for a NPR fundraiser and was “very, very tired.”
That’s like the Twinkie Defense but without all the preceding shooty stuff.
But lest you think that NPR’s highly ethical Adam Davidson is a monogamous one-bank at a time kind of guy, well, he’s not above pulling a bank train if the price is right:
On top of Ally Bank’s exclusive sponsorship of Planet Money, Davidson earns lucrative speaking fees from banks and financial companies, including J.P. Morgan, Well Fargo, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs—the same companies he covers as a journalist. Davidson is frequently the only journalist/reporter booked to speak at these events; other speakers usually work in finance.
Davidson has yet to disclose his corporate clients and how much they pay him, but here is a partial list of Davidson’s speaking gigs from the last two years compiled from various publicly available sources:
- In April 2011, Davidson was the headlining speaker at the 9th Annual “Women’s World Banking” Microfinance and the Capital Markets Conference. The conference was hosted by J.P. Morgan, but the organization itself is funded by the world’s biggest banks and corporations, including BP, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Barclays Capital, VISA, ExxonMobil—just to name a few.
- In 2011, Davidson spoke at another microfinance conference, this once was also funded by Morgan Stanley, Citi, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and CapitalOne.
- In 2012, Davidson spoke at the 27th Annual Conference for the Treasury & Finance Professional. Sponsors of the event included Bank of America, BlackRock, BNY Mellon, Bloomberg, Citibank, Findelity Investments, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Well Fargo and about a dozen of the most powerful financial the largest financial companies in the world.
Obviously NPR needs to take a stand on this.
Maybe on All Things Considered they’ll propose a blogger ethics panel.
We haven’t had one of those in a while and we could use a good cleansing…