A series exposing the exorbitant fees and sky-high interest rates of a mobile-home empire has earned the Center a “Best in Business” prize from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW). Three other Center projects were named as finalists in the prestigious competition, which recognizes outstanding business journalism.
The Center was one of just a handful of news outlets to be cited four times in the contest, joined by ProPublica, Quartz, Reuters, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Minneapolis Star Tribune and International Business Times.
The Mobile-Home Trap project was a partnership between the Center, The Seattle Times and Buzzfeed. The series revealed how Clayton Homes, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, relies on predatory sales practices, high fees and hefty interest rates to trap many buyers in loans they cannot afford and in homes that are difficult to sell or refinance. A second story in the series examined how Clayton Homes “systematically pursues unwitting minority home buyers and baits them into costly, subprime loans.”
Contest judges said the stories helped “…readers gain an understanding of a private company and its practices, and learn much about a little-known corner of the lending marketplace.”
Reporters and editors on the project included Alison Fitzgerald of the Center for Public Integrity and Daniel Wagner of the Center and BuzzFeed, and also Ken Lambert, Garland Potts and Jim Neff of The Seattle Times.
The Center’s was also cited as a finalist for these projects:
Unequal Risk, a series by Jim Morris, managing editor/environment, about risks workers face from toxic chemicals and substances in the workplace, including asbestos. “What this series did exceptionally well,” judges said, “was to expose the shortfall in worker protections, a story told in recounting human consequences.”
Evicted and Abandoned: The World Bank’s Broken Promise to the Poor, by the Center’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, along with the Huffington Post and other media partners. The cross-border, global investigation revealed that the World Bank failed to live up to its own policies for protecting people harmed by projects it finances, physically or economically displacing an estimated 3.4 million people.
Hedge Funds Get Cheap Homes, Homeowners Get the Boot by Jared Bennett, with news applications by Yue Qiu and Chris Zubak-Skees. This story found that a Department of Housing and Urban Development program originally meant to help distressed homeowners had instead largely become a lucrative investment tool for hedge funds and others. Judges said the project “broke new ground and helped spur a call for HUD to address weaknesses in its program.”
Congratulations to all of the winners.