Pulitizer Winner Chronicles A Crash: David Vise W82 WG83

In 1984, corporate mergers and acquisitions were soaring. Junk bonds were on the rise. And David Vise had just left M&A at Goldman Sachs for an entry-level journalism job at the Washington Post. His timing couldn’t have been better.

After the stock market crash of October 1987, Vise and his writing partner, Steve Coll, took on the daunting task of explaining what went wrong. They latched on to the idea of using former Security and Exchanges Commissioner John Shad’s tenure as the vehicle.

In four stories published in 1990, Vise and Coll detailed Shad’s professional style and goals, his battle to stop big investment firms  from being prosecuted for the misdeeds of individual brokers, and a deal he struck to put the Commodities Futures Trading Commission in charge of regulating stock index futures. The series won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism.

The stories about Shad were not complimentary, but Shad’s reaction says something interesting about Vise’s work. The former SEC chief, who is now deceased, remained an important source for Vise’s work on a book called Eagle on the Street. “I think that it’s not the way he would have written it, but he respected it,” Vise said of Shad’s reaction to the series.

After the Pulitzer, Vise went on to write about the Washington, DC, financial crisis of the 1990s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department. The latter assignment spurred another bestseller, this one called The Bureau and the Mole, about former FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen’s life as a double agent selling U.S. secrets to the Russians.

Now senior commentator for breakingviews.com, a leading online international financial commentary service, Vise most recently published The Google Story in 2006.

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