Originally published in November 2009.
I didn't know Mark personally. We spoke by telephone twice this year regarding the effort he was leading at Bloomberg to force Federal Reserve disclosure. He delighted in fighting a battle on behalf of the people, he said to me as detailed the latest developments in his FOIA war with the monolithic Fed: "I'm on a mission from God," he joked referring to the line from The Blue Brothers.
“Who sues the Fed? One reporter on the planet,” said Emma Moody, a Wall Street Journal editor who worked with Pittman at Bloomberg.
Public policy would be more effective if reporters, lawmakers and citizens understood how the financial system worked and why the crisis happened, Pittman said in the Feb. 27, 2009, interview with Chittum.
“Hopefully, we will be able to inform the people enough to know how badly we’re getting screwed,” he said with a laugh. “We need to know how to prevent it from happening again, and we need to know who did it.”
“He was one of the great financial journalists of our time,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University in New York and the winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for economics. “His death is shocking.”
Pittman’s fight to make the Fed more accountable resulted in an Aug. 24 victory in Manhattan Federal Court affirming the public’s right to know about the central bank’s more than $2 trillion in loans to financial firms. He drew the attention of filmmakers Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, who gave him a prominent role in their documentary about subprime mortgages, “American Casino,” which was shown at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival in May.
“He was a wonderful friend, a seeker of truth, a fighter for right, a proud family man, a big and jovial hand, a lover of food, drink and celebration of life,” said Joshua Rosner, managing director of Graham Fisher & Co., a consulting and analysis firm in New York. “This is a personal loss, a professional loss and a societal loss. He is truly irreplaceable.”
Bloomberg’s lawsuit against the Fed, which was filed after Pittman’s requests under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act were denied, continues without him. The central bank won a delay pending an appeal, which is scheduled for the week of Jan. 4.
At the time of his death, Pittman’s outgoing messages offered a link to a black-and-white photo of Woody Guthrie. Written on Guthrie’s guitar: “This machine kills fascists.”
Video: American Casino Trailer | Release Sep 4, 2009 | Documentary | I don't think most people really understood that they were in a casino says award-winning financial reporter Mark Pittman.