A Wall Street analyst threatened to lie about comments she made to Legal Schnauzer regarding the criminal history of Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins.
Paula Poskon serves as an analyst for Robert W. Baird and Company, one of the underwriters for Campus Crest Communities' $380-million Wall Street IPO. When I told Poskon in an interview that Ted Rollins's background included a conviction for assault on his 16-year-old stepson and a social services investigation for possible child sexual abuse, she audibly gasped and said, "Oh, my God, I wasn't aware of any of that." After stating that she would conduct research on the matter, Poskon stated that investors would find such matters "very concerning," especially because Campus Crest's target market, as a developer of student housing near college campuses, is young people.
In a follow up conversation, Poskon was adamant that I should not use her comments and even threatened to lie about what she had said in a tape-recorded phone conversation. (See first video at the end of this post.) Here is part of our exchange:
PP: But I’m not in position to comment on what you know. . . . To quote me specifically about Mr. Rollins or Campus Crest, in the context of his personal life . . . I don’t know. I can’t comment on something I don’t know about.
RS: You did comment, though, on how investors might see this. We talked about the fact it involved young people, and that’s relevant. It was on the record, and I’m going to use it.
PP: I think that’s very unfortunate. If I get calls on it, I will dispute that.
What does it say about "Wall Street values" when a prominent analyst, one who is quoted in major newspapers and appears on cable news programs, threatens to lie about comments she made on the record?
Poskon proceeded to claim I had not properly identified myself when arranging the interview--even though I gave her my name, my location, my background as a journalist who writes at a blog and several national Web sites, and identified the general subject matter. My response to that was simple:
RS: I said right up front that I’m a journalist, a reporter. It’s a story I’m reporting on, and your insights are important.
In so many words, Poskon was saying that she never would have agreed to the interview if she had known it was with a real journalist who might ask something other than softball questions.
It soon became clear that the "research" Poskon had promised to conduct involved calling Ted Rollins or someone close to him and allowing them to intimidate her. That's because she labeled my reporting as "personal," which is a charge I've heard before from Rollins associates--even though I have no idea what it's supposed to mean, and apparently, Paula Poskon doesn't know either.
Was Dan Rather's reporting on the Nixon administration "personal"? Heck, I don't know, but it changed history. Was Sara Ganim's reporting "personal" when she broke the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State? Again, I have no idea, but she exposed one of the worst cases of child sexual abuse in our nation's history.
You can hear the conclusion to my conversation with Paula Poskon in the second video below. But for now, let's consider this question: Is my reporting on Ted Rollins personal? It might be, in the context that the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case, which launched my inquiry, took place in Shelby County--in the same jurisdiction where I live, in the same court where I've experienced the kind of judicial corruption that has been heaped on Sherry Carroll Rollins and her two daughters.
When Sherry Rollins contacted me about possible wrongdoing in her Shelby County divorce case, it resonated with me. I had been in that courthouse, and I know how some litigants can be railroaded there. I didn't write about Rollins v. Rollins until I had conducted extensive research to confirm Ms. Rollins' story. If that makes my reporting "personal," then I would say journalism needs more personal reporting like it.
Here is part of my exchange on this topic with Paula Poskon:
PP: From what you’ve said and the postings you sent, your writings sound extremely personal, not objective at all. I don’t know why that might be; I'm not making value judgments about what happened to you in the past. From my perspective, a total stranger . . . , your writing does not appear to be objective, it's very personal. . . . Once I saw that, it made me very concerned for your motives about wanting to quote me. That's why I respectfully ask you not to quote me with respect to Campus Crest or Ted Rollins.
RS: I respect the request, but it’s going to be denied. I’m going to move forward with my reporting. . . . I can tell you there is nothing personal about my reporting on Ted Rollins. I've never met the man . . .
PP: It appears to me that you have very strong opinions about this person, that I think you were calling for some substantiation, and I can’t provide it.
RS: I don’t need substantiation. I wanted to know how people in the investment world view this sort of thing, and that’s what we discussed . . .
PP: In hypothetical terms. The way I characterized it was in hypothetical terms.
RS: Well, I don’t know if it was hypothetical or not. I asked you specifically about Ted Rollins, and you said it was a concern that this involved young people.