Bloomberg series on predatory lending wins Fairness in Journalism award
The Bloomberg News investigation “Sign Here to Lose Everything,” a five-part series about predatory lending practices in the merchant cash-advance industry, is winner of the 2018 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism.
Reported by Zachary Mider and Zeke Faux, the series revealed how an obscure legal document called a ‘confession of judgment’ used New York’s court system to collect debts, bankrupting businesses and ruining lives in the process.
“One of the victims the reporters profiled was Florida real estate agent Janelle Duncan, who, like many other borrowers, had signed a confession of judgment as part of her loan application. By signing, she forfeited her legal rights, allowing the lender to file a court case against her without her knowledge and to win it without a hearing or proof. Over the course of four months, Mider and Faux interviewed dozens of other borrowers who described lenders forging documents, lying about how much they were owed or fabricating defaults.
“The reporters developed sources within the industry and convinced them to explain their tactics. They also worked together with Bloomberg database editor David Ingold and graphics reporter Demetrios Pogkas to analyze thousands of New York state court records and found that over the course of four years, cash-advance companies had used confessions to obtain more than 25,000 judgments against borrowers across the country, worth an estimated $1.5 billion.
“Others who contributed to the series were editors Robert Friedman from Bloomberg News and Jeremy Keehn from Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.