Rain Media Wins an Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Award

Firestone and the Warlord, FRONTLINE and ProPublica‘s 2014 investigation revealing the relationship between the iconic American tire company Firestone and the infamous Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, has won an IRE Award.

“This reporting collaboration told a gripping story of how Firestone managed to continue operating during the brutal Liberian civil war, a tale informed by diplomatic cables, court documents and accounts from Americans who ran a rubber plantation as Liberia descended into chaos,” the IRE judges wrote in a statement announcing this year’s winners.

Told as both a documentary film and an interactive text story, the Firestone and the Warlord investigation spanned seven years and unearthed 44 lbs. of previously unreported court documents.

It found that Firestone agreed to pay millions of dollars to Taylor in exchange for being able to operate in Liberia — money that, in Taylor’s own words, provided the “financial assistance that we needed for the revolution” — and uncovered how Taylor turned the company’s plantation into a rebel base that he used to wage a bloody civil war.

The judges praised Firestone and the Warlord, which was honored in the “Multiplatform – Large” investigations category, as “a concise history of a disturbing episode that the public largely overlooked, and a rare window into the interrelationships of corporations that supply our consumer goods and regimes linked to crimes against humanity.”

Rain Media Wins Emmy for Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting – Long Form

Emmy Award

Rain Media was a winner at the 35th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards with The Retirement Gamble (2013), an investigation into whether your IRA or 401(k) accounts will ensure a safe retirement. The film won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting – Long Form. The Retirement Gamble was produced by Rain Media’s Marcela Gaviria and featured Martin Smith as correspondent. You can stream the film for free any time on FRONTLINE’s website. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Martin Smith Receives the 2014 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism

Martin Smith in Afgahnistan

Rain Media is very proud to announce that founder Martin Smith is the recipient of the 2014 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, presented by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Smith was selected in recognition of his courageous and insightful reporting on some of the most complex stories of our time: everything from revolutions in Central America and the fall of communism in Russia, to the rise of Al Qaeda and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The John Chancellor Award is presented each year to a reporter for his or her cumulative accomplishments. The prize honors the legacy of pioneering television correspondent and longtime NBC News anchor John Chancellor. Selected by a nine-member committee, Smith receives the 2014 award with a $25,000 cash prize. The award will be presented at a dinner ceremony at Columbia University’s Low Library in New York on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014.

“Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Martin Smith has produced a truly unique body of work with independence and credibility,” said Steve Coll, dean of the journalism school. “Smith’s work represents the best of public interest journalism, and embodies the spirit of the John Chancellor Award.”

“Whether presciently reporting on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden both before and immediately after 9/11, trying to understand the collapse of a new economy in Dot-Con, or laying out in delicious detail The Madoff Affair, Marty Smith has shown the kind of range and reportorial chops that any of us would envy,” said David Fanning, FRONTLINE executive producer.

“Marty is an astonishingly insightful, tenacious and courageous journalist and filmmaker whose reporting makes the world a better place,” said FRONTLINE deputy executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath, 95’. “It’s an honor to work with him, and we’re thrilled to premiere his next documentary, The Rise of ISIS, on October 28.”

 Click here to read Martin’s full biography.

Rain Media Nominated for 3 Emmy Awards

Rain Media has been nominated for three News & Documentary Emmy Awards this year. The winners will be announced announced on Tuesday, September 30, 2014, at a ceremony at Frederick P. Rose Hall in the Time Warner Center in New York City.

Rain Media’s Egypt in Crisis was nominated in the Outstanding Coverage a Current News Story—Long Form category. The film was produced by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria, with GlobalPost‘s Charles Sennott as correspondent.

Meanwhile, two Rain Media films were nominated in the Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting—Long Form category. The Retirement Gamble, produced by Marcela Gaviria with Martin Smith as correspondent received the first nomination; while The Untouchables, produced by Martin Smith and co-produced by Linda Hirsch and Ben Gold received the second nomination.

Rain Media Nominated for 2 Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism

Rain Media was recently nominated for two Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism.

The Untouchables, which explores the lack of Wall Street prosecutions in the wake of the financial crisis, is a Video/Audio Category Finalist. Federal Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who handles Wall Street criminal cases out of his seat in the Southern District of New York, recently cited The Untouchables in his New York Review of Books essay “The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted,” in which he claims that Lanny Breuer, the former leader of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, “totally misstates the law” during his interview on the program.

Meanwhile, The Retirement Gamble, FRONTLINE’s thorough primer on the uphill battle to retirement, is a Personal Finance Category Finalist. As TIME Magazine said, “You are all but certain to identify with one or more subjects in the program, and it may provide just the jolt you need to start paying attention to investment costs and save 10% of every penny you earn.”

Both films can be streamed for free on the PBS FRONTLINE website.

Congratulations to all of the finalists!

United States of Secrets, Pt. 2 to Air Tuesday, May 20 at 10 P.M. on PBS

When NSA contractor Edward Snowden downloaded tens of thousands of top-secret documents from a highly secure government network, it led to the largest leak of classified information in history — and sparked a fierce debate over privacy, technology and democracy in the post-9/11 world.

Now, in United States of Secrets, FRONTLINE goes behind the headlines to reveal the dramatic inside story of how the U.S. government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions of people around the world—including ordinary Americans—and the lengths they went to trying to hide the massive surveillance program from the public.

In part one, a two-hour film premiering Tuesday, May 13 at a special time (9 p.m.), FRONTLINE went inside Washington and the National Security Agency, piecing together the secret history of the unprecedented surveillance program that began in the wake of September 11 and continues today – even after the revelations of its existence by Edward Snowden.

Now, in part two, premiering Tuesday, May 20 at 10 p.m., veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Martin Smith (The Untouchables, To Catch a Trader) continues the story, exploring the secret relationship between Silicon Valley and the National Security Agency, and investigating how the government and tech companies have worked together to gather and warehouse your data.

Smith investigates the ways Silicon Valley has played a role in the NSA’s dragnet, and blurred the boundaries of privacy for us all.

“As big technology companies encouraged users to share more and more information about their lives, they created a trove of data that could be useful not simply to advertisers—but also to the government,” Smith says. “Privacy advocates have been worried about this since the early days of the Internet, and the Snowden revelations about the scope of government spying brought their fears into high relief.”

“If the FBI came to your door and demanded photos of your wedding, the names and daily habits of your children, the restaurants you frequent, who you’ve called and texted for the past month, and where you’ll be staying on your upcoming vacation, you’d call your lawyer,” Smith says. “But that’s exactly the sort of information we’re all sharing by living our lives digitally — and the government has taken notice in a big way.”

To Catch a Trader to Air Tuesday, January 7 at 10 p.m. on PBS

The $8 billion fortune amassed by the hedge fund titan Steven A. Cohen was stunning: a 35,000-square-foot mansion on Connecticut’s “Gold Coast”; a $62 million beach house in the Hamptons; a $115 million duplex in New York City, furnished with some of the world’s most valuable art.

Was Cohen’s firm, SAC Capital, simply smarter than the other players on Wall Street? Or, as the U.S. Justice Department began to suspect, was there another explanation for how SAC managed to beat the stock market and bring in sky-high returns for Cohen and his investors year after year?

From the team behind FRONTLINE’s The Untouchables and Money, Power and Wall Street comes To Catch a Trader (premiering Tuesday, Jan. 7, on PBS; check local listings), the suspenseful and compelling story of the unprecedented government investigation that led to the largest insider trading case in U.S. history.

Drawing on exclusively obtained video of Cohen, FBI wiretaps of other hedge fund traders, and interviews with both Wall Street and Justice Department insiders (including U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the “sheriff of Wall Street”), To Catch a Trader traces the rise of Cohen’s empire and goes inside the government’s ongoing, seven-year crackdown on insider trading in the hedge fund industry.

“Our investigation found that in 2006, for the first time, the FBI started to go after hedge funds the same way they went after the mob,” says FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith, who, along with director and producer Nick Verbitsky, spent six months digging into the government’s cases against traders at SAC Capital and other hedge funds.

“They began investigating Cohen and his peers in the same fashion—wiretapping, flipping informants, basically using these methods to target white-collar criminals for the first time,” Smith says.

As FRONTLINE reports, since prosecutors first set their sights on the hedge fund industry, the FBI’s crackdown has uncovered institutional, widespread malfeasance.

As one agent tells FRONTLINE, “We likened it to the first Jaws movie, that we’re ‘going to need a bigger boat.’”

To date, the government has convicted 76 people of securities fraud and conspiracy. In November 2013, SAC Capital agreed to plead guilty to what prosecutors called “insider trading that was substantial, pervasive, and on a scale without precedent in the history of hedge funds.” Under an agreement still pending a judge’s approval, the firm will cease to operate as a hedge fund and will pay a $1.8 billion penalty.

Steven Cohen has not been charged with insider trading; he instead faces civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly failing to supervise his employees and prevent misconduct.

U.S. Attorney Bharara tells FRONTLINE that the government’s investigation into insider trading at hedge funds will continue.

“Our responsibility and obligation is to make sure that everybody understands that no one is above the law,” Bharara says, “that it doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, who you’re connected to, you have to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

Unfolding with the urgency of a crime novel, To Catch a Trader is a must-watch primer for what happens next.

Exclusive: Watch Billionaire Steven Cohen Stumble Over Insider Trading Rules

Steven A. Cohen

Rain Media and PBS FRONTLINE have obtained a never-before-published video in which hedge fund titan Steven A. Cohen, whose firm this week pleaded guilty to securities fraud, describes federal securities laws as “vague,” and asks for an explanation of the basic Securities and Exchange Commission rule that prohibits insider trading.

See the story on PBS FRONTLINE’s webpage.

The 34th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards; 10/1/13

Rain Media Wins an Emmy for Money, Power and Wall Street

PBS FRONTLINE’s four-hour special chronicling the history of the 2008 financial crisis, Money, Power and Wall Street, took home last night’s News and Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting – Long Form. Rain Media shared the award with the Kirk Documentary Group. Congratulations to all the winners, including FRONTLINE founder and Executive Producer David Fanning, who won the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Egypt in Crisis to Air Tuesday, September 17 at 10 p.m. on PBS

Less than three years after the popular uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, and just one year after Egypt’s first free and fair elections, the democratically elected government has been overthrown and the Egyptian military is running the state.

And the Muslim Brotherhood—the secretive, long-outlawed Islamist group that came out of the shadows to win the presidency in June 2012—is once again being driven underground, its members killed and arrested in an army-led campaign to wipe it off the map.

Were the Brothers ever really in charge? Or was the Egyptian “deep state”—embedded remnants of Mubarak’s police force, Supreme Court and, most of all, military—in control all along?

In Egypt in Crisis, airing Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE and GlobalPost’s Charles M. Sennott go inside the Egyptian revolution, tracing how what began as a youth movement to topple a dictator evolved into an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to seemingly find the political foothold it had sought for decades—and then why it all fell apart.

“We’ve gone from the hope and high expectations of the 2011 revolution to the first free and fair presidential election in Egypt’s history to a return to military rule and a country more deeply divided than ever—all in less than three years,” says Sennott, a veteran Middle East correspondent (The Brothers). “This FRONTLINE documentary takes you deep inside these turbulent ups and downs.”

When Sennott was in Egypt reporting for FRONTLINE’s The Brothers in January of 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood had aligned itself with secular youth activists and was essentially holding the revolution’s infrastructure together.

“The young activists had no real leader,” Sennott says. “The Brothers were much more organized, so they stepped in, and they were the ones running the security checkpoints, serving hot tea, distributing blankets and running an emergency health clinic.”

But, as FRONTLINE reveals, the Brotherhood soon turned on its former allies, aligning itself instead with the Egyptian army and tolerating violent repression. Under the short-lived presidency of Mohammed Morsi, the military tortured high-ranking members of the opposition, subjected women to public “virginity tests” and conducted mass arrests of revolutionaries.

“We wanted our first elected president, who himself had been subjected to torture, who himself has come from a clandestine organization that was the prime target of police brutality, to stand up against police brutality,” Khaled Fahmy, a historian at the American University in Cairo, tells FRONTLINE. “Nothing happens. Not a single police officer was put on trial. Not a single investigation was launched.”

In Egypt in Crisis, FRONTLINE goes behind the scenes to find out how Morsi’s rule became increasingly unpopular, and explores the days and decisions leading up to his ouster at the hands of the military and his arrest on charges of inciting murder.

With Egypt’s hopes for democracy in tatters, and the military-led government violently cracking down on the Brothers, what will happen next?