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NYFWA Announces Recipients of 2021 Impact Award

Michael Smith and Nacha Cattan of Bloomberg News, and former Bloomberg News editor Cam Simpson, have been named the 2021 winners of the New York Financial Writers’ Association’s Impact Award for Distinguished Financial Journalism for investigative reporting that exposed how leading U.S. chemical companies fuel the narcotics labs flooding America with deadly drugs.

The trio’s August 2020 article "Heroin's Hidden Ingredient Is a Chemical Made by U.S. Companies" spurred official investigations and forced one of the main companies involved to remove tons of a chemical from the Mexican market that cartels need for their production of heroin. The investigation revealed how easily narcotics syndicates have tapped U.S. companies for massive amounts of the chemicals used to make heroin, crystal meth and cocaine bound for the U.S. And it exposed dubious conduct by companies conducting business in Latin America, as well as the systemic failure of U.S. and international narcotics laws designed to keep critical chemicals away from drug lords. 

Mexican cartels hold monopolies over the supply of heroin and crystal meth in the U.S., where more than 142,000 people were killed in overdoses from those two drugs between 2010 and 2018 alone. Meanwhile, the companies that enabled cartel production suffered virtually no consequences: "U.S. Chemical Cmopanies Face Few Legal Risks, and the Cartels Bank On It."

The group’s reporting also exposed the devastation in Latin America, including how one Texas company’s sales have both fed a smuggling pipeline across South America and stoked a deadly border war pitting two nations against a narcotics army: "Narcos Are Waging a New Drug War Over a Texas Company's Basic Chemical." Another U.S. company, Avantor, cultivated a major business line in the heart of America’s deadly heroin epidemic by selling the one essential heroin-making chemical into Mexico in jugs large enough to produce lucrative quantities of illegal narcotics, yet small enough to load into the trunk of a car. The day the investigation was published, Avantor quietly destroyed its supply of the chemical across Mexico and informed its sellers that it was exiting the business. It also led Mexico to launch an investigation of its own.