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Financial Times Reporters Discuss the Wirecard Fraud Series

The New York Financial Writers' Association's 2020 Impact Award for Distinguished Financial Journalism honored Dan McCrumStefania PalmaOlaf Storbeck and John Reed of the Financial Times for their series of courageous and persistent reports that exposed a massive fraud at the heart of Wirecard, one of Europe’s top technology companies. The reporting quartet discusses the story behind their award-winning series and how they found and went about reporting their articles.

Wirecard was once Germany’s fintech star –a payment processing company that replaced Commerzbank in Germany’s blue-chip DAX 30 stock index and seemed poised for international dominance of its business. At its peak, Wirecard had a market value of $28 billion and attracted an investment from Japan’s SoftBank, one of the world’s largest technology investors. In June, the company collapsed into insolvency, just days after revealing a $2.1 billion accounting hole at the core of its business. The disclosure meant that much of its business was nothing more than a fiction, and that the company hadn’t been nearly as profitable as it had claimed to investors. Its shares are now nearly worthless, its former CEO has been arrested on suspicion of false accounting, and German financial regulators are wondering how they could have missed such a massive fraud.

McCrum and his colleagues began raising questions about Wirecard’s accounting practices as early as 2015, doubling down on their reporting in 2019 by revealing details of an internal investigation by one of Asia’s most eminent legal firms which indicated that Wirecard had been inflating its revenues for years. Wirecard went on to falsely accuse the FT’s reporters of colluding with short sellers in an effort to bring down its share price – claims which were found to be groundless by an outside law firm appointed by the FT to investigate the allegations.

Panelists:

Dan McCrum is a multi-award winning investigative journalist. His work for the Financial Times has helped expose accounting problems and fraud at several listed companies, most recently Wirecard. Formerly the Editor of FT Alphaville, over his 13 year career at the Financial Times he’s also run part of the newspapers markets team, worked as the Financial Times’ Investment Correspondent in New York and for the Lex Column. Dan’s previous experience includes four years in Citigroup’s equity research department. 

Stefania Palma is a Singapore correspondent for the Financial Times, where she covers the city state, Malaysia and Indonesia. Prior to that she travelled across Asia Pacific as the Asia editor at the Financial Times Group’s The Banker Magazine. She holds a Masters in Modern Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of London’s School of Oriental & African Studies, where she first started studying Mandarin.

John Reed is the south-east Asia correspondent and Bangkok bureau chief for the Financial Times. He joined the Financial Times in 2000, and has served as a business reporter and foreign correspondent on posts in Jerusalem, Johannesburg, and Warsaw. He was also the Financial Times’ chief auto industry correspondent during the global financial crisis. Before joining the Financial Times, he worked for the Wall Street Journal and the Economist Intelligence Unit. 

Olaf Storbeck is Frankfurt Correspondent for the Financial Times. He is former Germany Columnist with Reuters Breakingviews and the former International Economics Correspondent for Handelsblatt, Germany’s business daily in Düsseldorf and London. In 2015, he was named Reuters Journalist of the Year in the commentary and analysis section for his coverage on Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal. In 2012, he received the Friedwart Bruckhaus award of Germany’s Hanns Martin Schleyer foundation. Olaf has written two books on current economic research. In 2007 the German edition of Economics 2.0 – What the best minds in Economics can teach you about Business and Life (jointly with Norbert Häring) was considered the best German business book of the year by getAbstract. In 2009, he published Die Jahrhundertkrise – Über Finanzalchemisten, das Versagen der Notenbanken und John Maynard Keynes, a book explaining the causes and consequences of the financial crisis (The Centennial Crisis – On Financial Alchemy, the Failure of the Central Banks and John Maynard Keynes).

About the Impact Award:

Established by the New York Financial Writers’ Association in 2019, the Impact Award honors a story or body of work by business journalists whose reporting spurred impact, irrespective of when the story or stories were published.

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