Thursday, April 8, 2010

NYT Health-Care Blogger With $5 Million Health-Care Portfolio: "I Guess I Have To Take The Rap For This, But I Don't See It As An Ethical Lapse."

In an interview Tuesday afternoon with the Business Insider website, Princeton professor and NYT health-care blogger Uwe Reinhardt denied that he had violated NYT ethics rules with his $5 million stock holdings in health-care companies.

"I guess I have to take the rap for this, but I don't see it as an ethical lapse," Reinhardt told reporter Lauren Hatch. "It never occurred to me. My board memberships are public knowledge...I invite you to look at the Wall Street Journal [academic columnists] and see their list of boards."

On Sunday, The NYTPicker reported in detail on Reinhardt's substantial stock portfolio and his $500,000-plus annual income from service on a multitude of corporate boards in the health-care field -- all in direct violation of the NYT's strict ethics rules. Those rules prohibit NYT staffers and freelancers from earning any income in fields directly related to their area of coverage.

"I have talked to the New York Times," Reinhardt said, "and soon my board memberships will be added to the bio so everyone can see it."

Reinhardt sounded defiant in defense of his conflicts, arguing that he had never used his NYT position to promote his financial interests.

"Try to find a post where I am shilling for a company or for an industry," Reinhardt told Hatch. "I don't do that."

But NYT rules exist not just to protect against shilling; they're also designed to prevent even the appearance of a conflict of interest. In prohibiting stock ownership -- even by other members of a contributor's immediate family -- the NYT policy states that it doesn't allow "financial holdings that might reasonably raise doubts about the staff member's impartiality."

Reinhardt reserved his toughest language for The NYTPicker, attacking this site for, among other things, failing to contact him for comment in advance of our Sunday story.

"These people are anonymous," Reinhardt said. "Are they even journalists? What if it is just someone who disagrees with my political beliefs. I sign my name at the bottom of everything I write, they should have enough honor to sign the bottom of their stuff. You don't know if they have an agenda. They didn't ask me. They didn't contact me -- they contacted the New York Times. In the middle of Easter."

But in fact, The NYTPicker emailed Reinhardt for comment at 1:49 pm Saturday -- nearly 24 hours before the post appeared -- to the email address listed on his Princeton webpage. That email is reprinted below.

In the end, Reinhardt seemed to acknowledge the legitimacy of the story to the interviewer.

"When all is said and done, they pointed it out and that's good," Reinhardt told the Business Insider reporter. "I had no intent to be unethical or deceitful."

In a statement on Tuesday, the NYT said it was "reviewing how to more fully describe" Reinhardt's business interests for readers.

Thus far, it hasn't mentioned them at all.


Anonymous said...

You guys rock. Just rock. And how surprising is it that a guy who won't, or can't, see his violations of his freelancer's agreement would lie about whether you had contacted him?

Anonymous said...

In your letter to the professor, you say that you intended to post about the matter on Monday morning. Instead, you posted on Sunday morning.

Perhaps you should have kept the schedule you told Reinhardt. Who knows? He might have contacted you.

Anonymous said...

It's kind of scary how he just doesn't get how professional links influence people even unconsciously . Maybe he never pumped up one of his employers, but he may have soft pedaled criticism or failed to provide it. Sins of omission are sins too.

Joseppe K. said...

Axes to grind and tusks to whet.

Kouwe ushered out,
Let's make Uwe's hell.

Anonymous said...

Princeton's rules on conflicts of interest seem a bit more lax:

Still I wonder about points (7) and (10), especially (10) given that there's little disclosure here:

But I'm guessing that will change.

lesdmd said...

I don't become terribly upset when the Times points out a "mispelled"(sic) word, employs writers who twitter in bad taste, or even when it creates a Times Cast logo with eerie similarity to one already in use; but the accumulation of Nytpicker reports of plagiarism, questionable business practices, and promotional "news" articles, leave me believing that the old gray lady has become a private club with rules that apply only to outsiders. Nytpicker may have some axes to grind; but that in no way excuses the egregious ignoring, by the Times and Mr. Reinhart, of some basic rules of journalism. I have written "Bob" to tell him so and I encourage others to do so; because how else will we save the Paper from becoming irrelevant before it falls into obsolescence.

Anonymous said...

Suppose the Commissioner of Baseball hired a home plate umpire for the American League. This umpire placed a $5,000,000 bet on the Yankees to win the American League pennant. After 85 games, the bet was discovered and made public. But the employer, as well as the umpire, state that despite the bet the balls and strikes were called objectively and so there is no problem. Further, they say that now that the bet is public, the umpire will not only remain in the game, but the bet will not be cancelled.

That pretty much sums up the position of Reinhardt and the New York Times. I find it appalling that both these parties don't deny the facts as alleged by NYTPicker. Worse than that, both have been caught in significant un-truthful statements. Reinhardt unbelievably says he was not contacted by NYTPicker despite un-controvertibable evidence to the contrary, and the Times make the incredible assertion that readers were informed of Reinhardt's outside activities. They merely want to divert attention from the scandal by focusing on the anonymous nature of this blog. I would be much more sympathetic to that view were the facts in dispute and undiscoverable from the public record. This is shameful.

Anonymous said...

There may be enough infantile adults around this immoral man who are turned on by the imaginary imbalance of power he and his bogus scholarship exude, that the company keeps him afloat as a worthwhile tradeoff for his coverup of the bad investment policies of the health insurance sector. It gets pretty fucking tiresome to point out the obvious, and one reader here or dere don't count, but surely there is something wee county enough to set a bottom line below which ought descend them crackerheads, lost causes, and the immature.

Anonymous said...

Hate to nytpick (hehehe) but the rules are against him owning stocks - do they say anything about bonds?

Bonds are a fixed amount and don't increase in value, so unless he was afraid they'd actually not be serviced, i.e. the companies would go bankrupt, anything he did- at all - would not increase their value.

Anonymous said...

Not to siff or anything too overly instructive, but such a notorious grin on any stoic pawn paycheck in mind and ready to foist his idea of realism on to the silent majority.

Too bad the paraphenilia and the extended arm salute are omitted.

Anonymous said...

In response to the Reinhart story, the NYT says: the NYT said it was "reviewing how to more fully describe ... ."

ANOTHER SPLIT IFINITIVE. Given that their own style book clearly says they shouldn't be used, it's wonderful that they are everywhere, ESPECIALLY in the editorials, which are, one would think, written by senior writers who should know their stylebook.

How can I trust the fact checking of they can't even check for violations of their own stylebook??

Anonymous said...

At least balance out this unexpurgated charlatan with a Pharma voice.