Thanks to $72 Million Blunder, Bloomberg Gets Way More Than They Bargained For

NYMagReasonsLogoDeck the halls with bows of expletive. That might well describe the mood at Bloomberg today, given that a journalist they just hired has been tarred with the latest MSM fact-check scandal.

Ultimately, it is Jessica Pressler who is responsible, as the bylined author of the New York magazine item, for this note at the top of a New York Post pick-up:

Mohammed Islam has since admitted he lied to New York magazine and did not make any money on the stock market, an Observer interview reveals.

At the New York website end, the Editor’s Note is now much more extensive than when first added to the online version of Pressler’s No. 12 entry for the publication’s big “Reasons to Love New York” cover feature:

In the most recent edition of New York, its annual “Reasons to Love New York” issue, the magazine published this story about a Stuyvesant High School senior named Mohammed Islam, who was rumored to have made $72 million trading stocks. Islam said his net worth was in the “high eight figures.” As part of the research process, the magazine sent a fact-checker to Stuyvesant, where Islam produced a document that appeared to be a Chase bank statement attesting to an eight-figure bank account. After the story’s publication, people questioned the $72 million figure in the headline, which was written by editors based on the rumored figure. The headline was amended. But in an interview with the New York Observer last night, Islam now says his entire story was made up. A source close to the Islam family told the Washington Post that the statements were falsified. We were duped. Our fact-checking process was obviously inadequate; we take full responsibility and we should have known better. New York apologizes to our readers.

Now, in Pressler and Adam Moss’ defense, think back for a moment to the Stephen Glass scandal. When someone bald-face lies, with faked journalist’s notes or a faked bank statement to support their fantasy, it’s easier to be fooled. The bigger the lie, usually, the harder it is to believe that someone would tell it. To your face.

However, in this particular case, as The Observer‘s Ken Kurson points out, a “quick dance with the calculator” would have exposed the lie:

Even if this working-class kid had somehow started with $100,000 as a high school freshman on Day One at Stuy High, he’d have needed to average a compounded annualized return of something like 796% over the three years since. C’mon, man.

When Pressler spoke to Joe Pompeo about her imminent career move, she said she’d be zeroing in on ‘financial personalities and “the culture of wealth and money.”‘ Little did she realize that some high school goofball was about to flip the lid on both fronts.

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Update (December 19):
The move to Bloomberg News is, predictably, now off. Per Capital New York’s Joe Pompeo, Pressler is staying put with New York magazine. Pompeo has the full memo from Adam Moss. A source told The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone that Bloomberg News rescinded the job offer.

All things considered, Pressler is taking a remarkably optimistic view of the “duping:”

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Previously on FishbowlNY:
Read New York‘s ‘Year in Culture’ Issue Just for the Arguments