Wall Street Journal
Uncharitable Giving: America’s richest people sometimes financially benefit from their philanthropy. Billionaire Carl Icahn had a $100 million loan from his charity, resulting from an unusual stock deal. Hundreds of people have made suspiciously well-timed stock gifts right before shares cratered, maximizing their tax write off. That’s so common that random chance doesn’t explain it, meaning that some donors may be cheating the system. Others have skirted the self-dealing rules through loopholes that allowed million dollar-pay to trustees and payments to family companies. And like Wonderful Company’s ubiquitous pistachios? Company owners Stuart and Lynda Resnick have a charitable foundation that made millions of dollars in low-interest loans to Wonderful’s growers.
The Gatekeepers of Student Loans: Colleges need to be accredited to get a slice of more than $130 billion in federal loans and grants. But colleges almost never lose accreditation, even those with graduation rates in the single digits, because the process focuses mostly on financial and bureaucratic issues. The Education Department is also responsible for cutting off loans to schools where few people pay back their debt. Not only does that rarely happen, but it helps politically protected schools avoid failing.
The Long and Winding Recall: We explored why auto recalls take so long. I looked at federal data and documents to examine how many investigations missed internal deadlines (about 70%). We examine one Jeep recall where dozens of people have burned to death, awaiting a fix.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Ballooning Parent Debt: Working with ProPublica, my co-authors and I explored the explosion in Parent PLUS loans. The government allows parents to take out unlimited loans to fund their children’s education at expensive colleges, regardless of their ability to repay. As a result, some parents end up underwater. Some people liken this to the sub-prime lending of higher ed. I also crunched the numbers for this graphic.
High Pay, Small Colleges: I ran The Chronicle of Higher Education’s executive compensation project, overseeing the collection of data from federal tax filings. I analyzed data for an interactive and co-wrote a story about the most overpaid college presidents relative to other variables. The president featured in our story was later fired. The project won several awards for reporting and design.
The Peer Networks of Higher Ed: Who does your college think its peers are? I got data from the Education Department showing what peers colleges actually chose for themselves. I used Gephi to plot those data points and worked with a front-end developer who brought the project to life. I wrote a story analyzing how colleges choose the cool kids.
Iona College Fraud: I discovered financial fraud on Iona College’s federal tax filings. I then found out that the college had never reported the $1-million crime to the police. The employee (a nun) was later arrested and charged in federal court. I now can tell people that, indirectly, I put a nun in jail.