Mark Pittman, A Close Friend, Great Reporter, And The First Person To Sue The Fed And Win, Has Died

Tyler Durden's picture

Mark Pittman, the Loeb Award-winning Bloomberg journalist, a personal friend, a legendary financial reporter and the first person to sue the Fed (in conjunction with Bloomberg News) and win, passed away on Wednesday. He was 52. Our thoughts are with his family.

Bloomberg's brief on Mark's legacy.

Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Mark Pittman, the award-winning
investigative reporter whose fight to open the Federal Reserve
to more scrutiny led Bloomberg News to sue the central bank and
win, died Nov. 25 in Yonkers, New York. He was 52.

Pittman suffered from heart-related illnesses. The precise
cause of his death wasn’t known, said his friend William Karesh,
vice president of the Global Health Program at the Bronx, New
York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Pittman, a former police-beat reporter who joined Bloomberg
News in 1997, wrote stories in 2007 predicting the collapse of
the banking system. That year, he won the Gerald Loeb Award from
the UCLA Anderson School of Management, the highest accolade in
financial journalism, for “Wall Street’s Faustian Bargain,” a
series of articles on the breakdown of the U.S. mortgage

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. Pittman 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.

“Who sues the Fed? One reporter on the planet,” said Emma
Moody, a Wall Street Journal editor who worked with Pittman at
Bloomberg. “The more complex the issue, the more he wanted to
dig into it. Years ago, he forced us to learn what a credit-
default swap was. He dragged us kicking and screaming.”

Police Reporter, Ranch Hand

James Mark Pittman was born Oct. 25, 1957, in Kansas City,
Kansas, where he played linebacker on the high school football
team. He took engineering classes at the University of Kansas in
Lawrence before graduating with a degree in journalism in 1981.
He was married soon after and had a daughter, Maggie, in 1983.
The marriage ended in divorce.

Pittman’s first reporting job, covering the police
department for the Coffeyville Journal in southern Kansas, paid
so little he took a part-time job as a ranch hand across the
Oklahoma border in Lenapah, according to an interview he gave to
Ryan Chittum for the Columbia Journalism Review’s The Audit, a
watchdog for the business press.

“What a funny guy -- huge personality,” Chittum said in
an e-mail message. “Mark was my favorite reporter working. In a
time when too much journalism is timid or co-opted, Mark
personified the whole ‘afflict the comfortable’ tenet of the
business. Mark’s passing is a huge loss for journalism at a time
when we can least afford it.”

No Small Moves

Pittman spent a year in Rochester, New York, with the
Democrat & Chronicle newspaper and 12 years at the Times Herald-
Record in Middletown, New York, where he met his second wife,
Laura Fahrenthold-Pittman in 1995.

“All I know is we fell in love the moment we met,”
Fahrenthold-Pittman said in an interview Friday. “We moved in
together a week later. He was as serious about his family life
as he was about work. Mark did nothing in a small way.”

Pittman joined Bloomberg News in 1997. In 2007, he was
writing about the securitization of home loans when subprime
borrowers, who have bad or limited credit histories, began
missing payments on their mortgages at a faster pace.

Pittman’s June 29, 2007, article, headlined “S&P, Moody’s
Hide Rising Risk on $200 Billion of Mortgage Bonds,” was
excoriated at the time by for “trying to play
‘gotcha’ with the ratings agencies

“And that really isn’t helpful,” said the unsigned
posting. [TD: the posting is not unsigned, it was authored by "Yves Smith" and Felix Salmon]

Beating the Pack

Pittman’s story proved prescient. So did his reports on
U.S. banks exporting toxic mortgages overseas, on Treasury
Secretary Henry M. Paulson’s role in creating those troubled
assets while he was chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs
Group Inc. and on the U.S. bailout of American International
Group Inc.

“He’s been on this crisis since before the crisis,” said
Gretchen Morgenson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning financial
columnist for the New York Times. “He was the best at burrowing
into the most complex securities Wall Street could come up with
and explaining the implications of them to readers of all levels
of sophistication. His investigative work during the crisis set
the standard for other reporters everywhere. He was a giant.”

In the “Faustian Bargain” series, Pittman explained how 5
percent of U.S. mortgage borrowers missing monthly payments
could lead to a freeze in lending throughout the world.

‘Fearless, Most Trusted’

“Mark Pittman proved to be the most fearless, most trusted
reporter on the most important beat during the 12 years he wrote
about credit markets, corporate finance and the Federal Reserve
at Bloomberg News,” said Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief Matthew
. “His colleagues will miss his laughter and generous
sense of mission. Bloomberg readers were rewarded by his many
achievements culminating with a federal court ruling validating
his search for records of taxpayer-financed policies withheld
from the public and the Gerald Loeb Award.”

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.”

Standing 6 feet 4 inches with a booming laugh, a loud
telephone voice, and a taste for bourbon, Pittman made lifelong
friends on Wall Street, in Congress, in journalism circles and
in the artistic community after he and his wife opened an art
gallery in Yonkers in 2005.

‘A Great Loss’

“I always learned something new when I spoke with Mark,”
said Representative Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican on
the House Financial Services Committee. “He was dogged in
pursuit of the truth. This is a great loss for journalism and
for those who relied on Mark for his insight.”

In “American Casino,” the title of which comes from an
expression Pittman uses in the documentary, the filmmakers
profile subprime borrowers who are losing their homes, mortgage
brokers who made loans they knew their customers could never
repay and bankers and ratings analysts whose companies profited
from the housing boom.

Pittman provides an anchor for the narrative, at one point
searching the Bloomberg terminal and finding the mortgage of a
Baltimore teacher going through foreclosure inside a security
underwritten by Goldman Sachs.

Celebrating Life

“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

Along with his wife and daughter Maggie, Pittman is
survived by daughters Nell, 10, and Susannah, 8, from his second
marriage; his father Warren Pittman; mother Donna Pittman-
Nealey; and brothers Barry Pittman and Craig Pittman.

“He was so large -- in spirit and in person -- and his
passion for his craft was so great, it is impossible to think
that it could just end,” said Jeffrey Taylor, Pittman’s editor
on the “Faustian Bargain” series.

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.

“He was one of the great financial journalists of our
time,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist
and Columbia University professor. “His death is shocking.”

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.”

Zero Hedge staffers met with Mark days before his death at which point we discovered he was working on a major financial expose. We would be humbled to pick up the torch and bring his last opus to closure.

We are sure Bloomberg News will keep Mark's spirit alive, and will continue his lifelong pursuit of eliminating secrecy and opacity, and bringing truth and justice to all corners of high finance.

Mark shall be missed.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
desk-jockey's picture

wtf? 52? hear-related issues? too young, may he RIP.

You Cant Handle the Truth's picture

I am sad to hear of this loss.  My thoughts are with his family.

lynnybee's picture

sincere & respectful sympathies to you on the loss of your friend.    

Sqworl's picture

May he Rest in Peace...he will be missed..;-(

lizzy36's picture

The is a profound loss for those who believe one man, with access to a bloomberg terminal, can make a difference.  Mark Pittman defined intelligent financial reporting. 

For those who want to read his thoughts on the crisis and financial journalism I urge you to read this story from Columbia Journalism Review.

MP: They were buying it themselves. Yeah. And not every deal. But you know what—it happened enough. We don’t have enough journalists in America who understand what a spread does, which is the essence of banking. I just finished Dean’s piece in Mother Jones recently. We’ve got 9,000 business journalists and maybe twenty of them know what a spread is. This is not business journalism’s finest hour. But it is our biggest opportunity ever.  

MP: It is huge. Most reporters, it’s shocking how few of them actually understand the difference between price and yield. Hardly any business journalist actually covers the financing. If you cover a company and all of a sudden their borrowing costs go from 100 (basis points) over to 250 or 300 over [meaning investors believe the risk has increased substantially], and no one asks a question. There’s a problem there when that happens and nobody asks a question. I think we have training issues in a huge way in our profession. We brought a knife to a gunfight.

MP: It kinda bums you out, because you want to do things that have big (impact) because that’s why you’re in the business. And public policy would work a lot better if they actually understood what the hell was going on.


illyia's picture

The best Zero Hedge could do is to "pick up the torch and bring his last opus to closure."

Green Sharts's picture

Thanks for providing that link Lizzy.

I'm sorry to learn of Mr. Pittman's passing.  We need a lot more business reporters with his knowledge, skill, tenacity and access to resources.  As the piece in Mother Jones references, we're going in the wrong direction.  Hopefully Bloomberg will pick up the slack from fading publications like the Wall Street Journal and Fortune.

Anonymous's picture

You guys! Your too close to the singularity!

Anonymous's picture

Quite possibly the reason for anonymity. Unreasonable things can happen.

CD's picture

Sincere condolences on your loss, TD; and indeed the loss for us all. Does anyone have a different/more recent photo?,1241403275,1/stock-photo-new-york-may-mark-pittman-attends-the-th-annual-tribeca-film-festival-american-casino-talk-29637565.jpg

On a darker note, is he in Valhalla or Fólkvangr?

laughing_swordfish's picture

Valhalla - see below, Bitte.

Anonymous's picture

Sorry dudes (dudette).

Anonymous's picture

sorry to hear this. I didn't know Mark but he was a great reporter. Having experience the death of my sister this year (41 years old), I can only feel sympathy for his family and friends.


SDRII's picture

Financial expose? Do tell

Anonymous's picture

God bless his family. God Damn the MF pricks who did this (and are still doing it) to our country. You guys need to pick up the torch so that the rest of us can pick up the axes...

Anonymous's picture

Mark Pittman , RIP

52 is very young for a heart attack.


andy55's picture

Ok, allow me to ask the horribly obvious question of the true nature of his death.  Someone capable of moving the entire system passes within +/- few month margin to when it matters most?  I'm no conspiracy nut, but c'mon...right?

Mr. Mandelbrot's picture

Thanks for saying what I was thinking.  My worldview and understanding of history include powerful players viewing major "troublemakers" as better off dead.  Is Mark Pittman our generations' Louis T. McFadden?!  To put it another way, did the DC Madame commit suicide mere days after going on air saying she would never kill herself and if she appears to have committed suicide then foul play is involved?  Just wondering aloud . . . 

Gordon_Gekko's picture

You cannot help but speculate whether foul play was involved when dealing with the most powerful criminal enterprise in human history - the federal reserve.

bbbilly1326's picture

The only man who successfully sues the Fed and wins, dies of unexplained causes within months of doing that ?


With all the comments here about Barofsky et al having people taste their food and start their cars, I'm surprised not to hear more about ZH's take on the cause of death.

I hope we find out who caused this...........

MsCreant's picture

"I'm surprised not to hear more about ZH's take on the cause of death."

You and I are free to speculate as we like on a comments board. Reporters have to report what they know (they might do it with some "tude," but still...), it must be verifiable. Very deadly business, on so many dimensions, for them to type suppositions up there.

On the flip side, if they knew for sure that no foul play was involved, I would assume they would modify the post above or set us straight here in the comments section.

That silence, thus far, is speaking the loudest to me.

agrotera's picture

I agree, about this poor man's death being quite suspicious given the fact that he was looking into the eye of the devil--

but, not surprised about ZH not spinning.  This poor man is gone, and it is proper for ZH not to comment, just yet.  However, i am not so proper, so i hope to be forgiven.

Mad Max's picture

Yes, I think it would be naive not to.

And whoever is flagging this whole discussion as junk needs to get a life.

MsCreant's picture

Oh Max, I'm so excited, we got junked too!

I gots some junk in my trunk.

[Insert lewd butt swaying gesture about here].

For the cowardly junker only:



agrotera's picture

instead of "Got Milk" we can wonder "Got Junk"?

bbbilly1326's picture

gosh, I don't think I've been junked on ZH before...........


I think I feel........honored  ...........


Anonymous's picture

seems like dark times soon ahead indeed since a/(the most) powerful light-bringer has fallen at the end of the 6th day (approx. Nov8,09). should be a magnificent struggle as the financial (aka control) system collapses during this next 360 days or so.

D.O.D.'s picture

Is speculation really necessary, who's next in line RP,  Grayson?  Please all those that choose to challenge the fed... only eat packaged food, or food that you've prepared for yourself!!!

R.I.P, may the truth not die with you...

whacked's picture

"We would be humbled to pick up the torch and bring his last opus to closure."

And we would appreciate that TD and crew.


Condolences to the family. Too young ... his life work was no doubt yet to begin.


Woodshedder's picture

My thought are with his family, and especially his children. May he rest in peace.

Cursive's picture

Thanks for posting the obit.  I will remember him in my prayers.

MsCreant's picture

Mark Pittman was Tyler Durden.

Long live Tyler Durden.

Long live Marla Singer.

Long live Zero Hedge.

CD's picture


It is a bit ironic, if that's the right word, that a lot of the detractors on the earlier blogspot version of the site mocked the "fact" that TD was merely a guy with a Bloomberg terminal. Contributors and donors exempt, but isn't it time the readership united to provide a bit more substantial support to ZH's staff beyond diligent, critical... readership?

agrotera's picture

Forgive me MsCreant--I am saddened by the news, and when i read your post, i am not sure if i am thinking black and white or what but, are you speaking metaphorically ( " Mark Pittman was Tyler Durden" )  or did we lose Tyler?

And, my apoligies if my question offends anyone.

slore's picture

TD is an entity and a movement, operating in anonymity. 

We dont get to know if Mark was specifically involved, except for the fact that the post said that ZH met with him (which leads to believe third party).  TD is truth despite corporate media controls, and analysis beyond accepted norm.  If Mark was a part, TD does not die with him, as the movement continues

agrotera's picture

Thank you slore!  

MsCreant was speaking of this metaphor i hope...because TD did start this organization as one person TD and not the multiple TD's that are reported now.

TheGoodDoctor's picture

Watch Fight Club if you haven't already or perhaps watch it again. You'll get the reference. ;)

agrotera's picture

No, i do get the reference, but i was worried about the "literal" part of what MsCreant was saying because, indeed, there is one single person who calls himself TD who started this blessed site...especially since i was on vacation during the whole New York Post incident over the summer and missed so much, and never got to the bottom of that whole deal...

MsCreant's picture

Hi agrotera,

If TD is an idea, and if Mark was a close friend of ZH, then I am confidently surmising that he was "a" Tyler. How could he not give them leads and leaks? A smart guy like him who was ahead of the curve, revealing the rot before the rest of the press, would eat this whole ZH concept up. At minimum, how could he not take a kinda avuncular Robinhoodesque joy in dropping by and hanging out.

"The" Tyler, the original energy driving the inception of this site, I am not in a position to know.  What a devestating wipe out that would be. That might be enough to get some pitch forks, uh, pitching.

Let's hope not. If my surmise is correct, ZH may have lost a major organ, some eyes or ears.

CD's picture

If TD is correct in his conjecture that 500K readers frequent the site (and Google is a pretty authoritative souce on this point, though I see about half or 1/3 that), then while Mark may have been a TD in a metaphorical or literal sense, he founded (contributed to founding) a movement beyond himself. Mark is no mere Robert Paulson, he ought to become the example that he seems to have lived his life by. While acknowledging that this is no longer a game (not that it ever was), we must take strength and resolve (rather than just resignment and grief) from this sacrifice -- for that is what it was. Whether a direct dagger, or merely the indirect result of knowing and probing what he knew, Paul did give his life to the cause of truth, freedom and justice. So follow the example, dammit, while one singular voice may not have been enough, a voice amplified X500K armed with truth would shake the walls to their foundations. Which is where we must begin to rebuild anyway. Stop dithering, chatting, lurking, and DO something already. At least convey what you know. Viva la revolution.

bonddude's picture

Since "Tyler" made a phone call appearance with Max Keiser I'd bet he could verify any such


Gordon_Gekko's picture

Tyler Durden is an idea - as is ZH - and an idea never dies. That, I believe, is what MsCreant is trying to convey.

Gordon_Gekko's picture



Fellow ZH-bug

Ruth's picture

Very, very sorry for your loss of a friend and valuable person towards this crises.  Condolences to his family.  We Are Family, too.  Thank You for his many contributions and courage.  Many blessings to our Zerohedge Family and those yet to be adopted.  We are watching and will be anxiously awaiting news of the cause of death and hopefully read of his many fights to the end of his many stories not yet told.

laughing_swordfish's picture

To all ZeroHedgers:

This was handed me by the in-port communications watch of U-96 about an hour ago:

"FM: BdU (Befelshaber der Unterseeboote) - KzS Luth (KapitanzurSee Luth - officer sending):

"To: All Boats, Kommandanten der 2er, 3er, 5er, 7er, 9er 10er, 11er 15er FrontsFlotillen der Unterseebooten (Combat U-Boat Flotillas)

" KrvtKpt.(KorvettenKapitan) Mark Pittman, Kommandant of U-121, "Trager der RitterKreutz zum EisernKreuzern"  (holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross), died suddenly of an unexplained illness while leading boat and crew in the struggle of the Fatherland against the forces of Fed and Squid. "

" He was buried at sea with full honors to begin a hero's voyage to Valhalla. "

" We strike the colors today for a hero and leader, a true Knight without fear or fault." ("Ritter ohne Angst oder Schwache").

" The boat, under the command of IWO (First Watch Officer) "KptLt. Durden", continues its patrol and the Struggle against the Enemy. "


"Long Live The Fatherland"

"Long Live the Kriegsmarine"

"Long Live Zero Hedge"

"long Live the UnterseebooteWaffe"


KptLt. laughing swordfish

Kommandant - U-96

9er Unterseeboote Flotille


Anonymous's picture

Mark Pittman, you were lost too soon.

Your courage and sheer genius (and may I add AUDACITY) to challenge the FED was a move of epic proportions and you gave truth seekers a voice. The mumurs are getting louder and will crescendo into screams at those who are sucking the life out of this country due in large part to your sacrifices. Your family has much to be proud of and I send them my deepest regards.

TD and Marla and the entire staff of ZH ---- and all the readers, posters and contributors --- LET"S TAKE THIS UP WHERE MARK LEFT OFF!

Anonymous's picture

This needs to go further than "Let's Take This Up Where Mark left Off". If his passing was simply from natural causes, it does not diminish from the fact that the site has lost an agent for justice. Fuck that picking up the flag shit. It's time to pick up the baton, the pitch fork and the torch. Those who harbor destructive plans for the lumpen, have one less reason to fear at the passing of this man.