Diana Henriques receives SABEW award
by Liz Hester
Each year the honor, SABEW’s highest, is given to someone “who has made a significant impact on the field of business journalism and who has served as a nurturing influence on other in the profession.”
Henriques has written four books, including the most recent “The Wizard of Lies” about Bernard Madoff.
She started at the Times in 1989 and specializes in writing about white-collar crime, market regulation and corporate governance. She was a member of the teams that were Pulitzer Prize finalists for coverage of the 2008 financial crisis and the Enron scandal.
She serves on the SABEW board of governors and the board of trustees at George Washington University.
To close the evening, Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times, interviewed Henriques about how she got into journalism and accountability.
When asked what drew her to business journalism, Henriques said it was a “fascination with the con artist” and a low threshold for outrage.
“It’s a morally fascinating environment,” she said. “If profit maximization is the name of the game, how do you keep people honest? How do you keep them from maximizing their own profit at your expense.”
Of business journalism, Henriques said, “It’s an enormous amount of fun and enormously important that people understand it.”
The conversation then turned to Henriques’ book on Madoff and how she got him to talk to her. (Madoff is no longer speaking to her.) Her advice was to be persistant and not take no for an answer. It took months to convince him and his lawyers to cooperate with her.
After finally getting approval to meet with him, she recounted the trials of going into the prison, without a recording device, and having the prison approve pen, pad and files to be brought into the visitor’s room.
She also discussed how she connected with him and the questions she asked Madoff in the short period of time she had with him. Some of the harder questions, she saved for the end of the interview.
One was about the beginning of the fraud. Madoff told her he couldn’t remember the moment when he turned from being an honest broker to running a Ponzi scheme.
Henriques said she didn’t believe it possible not to remember the moment and that’s when she realized he was lying about how it started. This was the issue that caused Madoff to stop talking to her — not the book’s publication.