Tom Wright, Coauthor of Bestseller 'Billion Dollar Whale' and Longtime Asia Reporter, Wins 2020 Shorenstein Journalism Award

Portrait of Tom Wright

STANFORD, CA, April 8, 2020  — Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) is pleased to announce that journalist and author Tom Wright is the recipient of the 2020 Shorenstein Journalism Award for excellence in coverage of the Asia-Pacific region. Wright, who over the past twenty-five years has worked mainly in South and Southeast Asia, is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Billion Dollar Whale, which unravels the story of one of the world's greatest financial scandals involving the multibillion-dollar looting of the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). The book builds on Wright’s multiyear investigative reporting for the Wall Street Journal, where he most recently served as Asia economics editor. In the coming fall quarter, Wright will receive the award at a ceremony and headline a panel discussion at Stanford.

Wright started his career with Reuters in Indonesia in the 1990s at a time when Gen. Suharto’s military dictatorship was crumbling. During the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, he joined Dow Jones Newswires in Bangkok, later moving to the Wall Street Journal. He has investigated corruption in Indian companies, the failure of the U.S.’s civilian aid program for Pakistan, and was one of the first journalists to arrive at the scene of the raid in which Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. His 2013 award-winning series on the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,000 people, exposed how international garment manufacturers turned a blind eye to safety violations to reduce costs.

In 2015, he began investigations into the 1MDB scandal, one of the largest financial frauds of all time in which bankers at Goldman Sachs helped a young Malaysian financier steal at least $4 billion from Malaysian state fund 1MDB. The three-year investigation revealed the degree to which Western institutions, from Wall Street banks, law firms, auditors, and even Hollywood film companies, ignore malfeasance in the pursuit of profits. Wright’s work sparked investigations by law enforcement and regulators in multiple countries and outrage in Malaysia, where the ruling coalition, after 61 years in power, suffered a landslide defeat in a shocking 2018 election.

“Throughout his career, Tom Wright’s consummate reporting and persistent investigations have repeatedly shone a light on major Asian affairs and the complicity of Western institutions in the affliction of corruption in Asia,” said Gi-Wook Shin, Shorenstein APARC director. “His work embodies an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of truth and to advancing a critical consideration of both Asian and Western societies. We are delighted to recognize him with the Shorenstein Journalism Award.”

Presented annually by APARC, the Shorenstein award, which carries a $10,000 cash prize, honors the legacy of APARC’s benefactor, Mr. Walter H. Shorenstein, and his twin passions for promoting excellence in journalism and understanding of Asia. “We are grateful to the Shorenstein family for its support of our Center and its mission and to the members of the award selection committee for their expertise and service,” noted Shin.

The selection committee for the Shorenstein Journalism Award, which unanimously chose Wright as the 2020 honoree, includes Wendy Cutler, vice president and managing director, Washington, D.C. Office, Asia Society Policy Institute; James Hamilton, Hearst Professor of Communication, chair of the Department of Communication, and director of the Stanford Journalism Program, Stanford University; Raju Narisetti, global publishing director-elect, McKinsey & Company; Philip Pan, weekend editor, former Asia editor, the New York Times; and Prashanth Parameswaran, senior editor, the Diplomat

Eighteen journalists have previously received the Shorenstein award, including most recently Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler; Anna Fifield, the Washington Post’s Beijing bureau chief and long-time North Korea watcher; Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of the Wire; Ian Johnson, a veteran journalist with a focus on Chinese society, religion, and history; and Yoichi Funabashi, former editor-in-chief of the Asahi Shimbun.

Information about the 2020 Shorenstein Journalism Award ceremony and panel discussion featuring Wright will be forthcoming in the fall quarter.

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Media Contact:

Noa Ronkin
Associate Director for Communications and External Relations
Shorenstein APARC