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About Allan Dodds Frank
Allan Dodds Frank practices
journalism these days as a contributor to
The Daily Beast and a
special correspondent for
Newsweek, and by
working on a book about the world’s greatest white collar criminals.
He is also spearheading the creation by the
Press Club of America of a worldwide database for journalists
that is being funded by a Ford Foundation grant.
He is also spearheading the creation by the Overseas Press Club of America of a worldwide database for journalists that is being funded by a Ford Foundation grant.
Allan Dodds Frank’s perspective and skills spring from his distinguished career in print and broadcast journalism, which spans almost every aspect of reporting and storytelling. As a business news broadcaster for the last two decades, Allan Dodds Frank specialized in financial news with emphasis on complex white-collar crimes and terrorism stories. While primarily a television network correspondent, he often filed radio reports as well.
He began his broadcasting career in 1988 at ABC News, where he was the first business investigative correspondent on network television. Frank was featured as the reporter on the street for “Business World with Sander Vanocur” and appeared on "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings," "Good Morning America” and "Nightline with Ted Koppel."
At CNN and CNN/fn, Frank was the investigative correspondent for "Moneyline with Lou Dobbs." At Bloomberg, Frank covered major legal and financial affairs events on television and radio and filed hundreds of wire service stories as well.
During two decades in print, Allan Dodds Frank worked at the Anchorage Daily News as a reporter, photographer, columnist, state capitol bureau chief in Juneau and sports editor. At the Washington Star, he was a local and national staff writer responsible for the Justice Department beat until the newspaper folded and he joined the Washington Bureau of Forbes as a correspondent. At Forbes, Frank reported from 30 countries and, while serving as a senior editor in New York, created the first Forbes "Top 40" Richest Entertainers list.
His assignments have ranged from bizarre feature stories to hard-core breaking news events, ongoing coverage of major legal issues and exclusive investigations of complicated people and subjects involved with big money. He has covered everything from sewer and school board meetings to the CIA and Congress; from business and politics in Latin and South America to the connections between global money laundering and terrorism. Throughout much of his career, Frank also has specialized in covering courts and the justice system. Among his feature stories: the last interview with Groucho Marx.
As a supporter of high standards for journalists, Frank served as President of the Overseas Press Club of America from 2008-2010, a group founded by foreign correspondents to encourage the highest standards of professional integrity and skill in the reporting of news and to educate a new generation of journalists. He also is a co-founder of Project Klebnikov, a worldwide collaboration by journalists to try to bring the killers of Paul Klebnikov, the Forbes bureau chief in Moscow, to justice.
As a contributor to The Daily Beast on complex financial issues, Frank remains one of the nation’s top business investigative correspondents. At Bloomberg, he led coverage of Bernard Madoff, the AIG collapse, and court cases against Richard Grasso, Dennis Kozlowski, Martha Stewart and others. He also uncovered $500 million in fake bonds created by Refco and Bawag, an Austrian bank in the fraud that led to the collapse of Refco, which had been the biggest commodities firm in the United States.
Frank also served as Anchor and Senior Correspondent for CNN and CNNfn. During his tenure with the news network, he covered lead breaking stories primarily for "Moneyline with Lou Dobbs." At CNN, he was on-the-ground reporting from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and filed investigative reports across a number of beats from terrorism to corporate corruption to financial markets. In 2002, he won the Gerald Loeb Award and a national Emmy Award for his reporting on the financing of terrorism.
2002 Gerald Loeb Award
2002 Emmy Award
1992 Emmy Award
While at ABC News, Frank won an
Emmy Award in 1992 for his
work in exposing the inner workings of Ross Perot’s financial
engineering for the Fort Worth airport.
Frank holds a Master of Studies in Law and Ford Foundation Fellow in Journalism Honors from Yale Law School, a Masters of Science in Journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Bachelor of Arts, with a concentration in American History, from Colgate University.
As a principal of Meritas Partners, a management consulting firm, Frank also teaches executives how to write and talk effectively. He helps executives translate their strategic corporate communications into plain English that employees, customers and potential clients understand instantly. He transforms bland corporate jargon into precise and stimulating language. He also trains executives to handle themselves calmly and get their messages out during radio and television interviews, even under adversarial or crisis conditions.
by Allan Dodds Frank
My late father, Morton Frank, introduced me to the Silurians in the 1970s, when he was the publisher of the Sunday supplement Family Weekly and I was a fresh young reporter for the Washington Star.
Although this was long before he served a term as president of the Silurians, he understood the wonderful osmosis that often occurs when young pups learn by hanging out with the wise older newspaper folks they admire. And, by taking me to various journalistically inclined events, he hoped I would pick up a tip or a technique here and there, from a revealing award acceptance speech or a wonderful anecdote overheard at the bar.
He was right -- of course -- and I still feel I learn something valuable every time I come to a Silurians banquet.
That’s why I hope my own journalistic forays are at least amusing, if not instructive.
Over the years, I have worked -- almost always as a reporter rather than an editor -- for the Anchorage Daily News, the Washington Star, Forbes, ABC News and CNN.
At each place, I’ve been lucky enough to chase some great stories.
And, as I once wrote, in a factually correct joke for my ABC profile, on assignment, I have eaten whale blubber, Eskimo ice cream (whale fat and blueberries), porcupine, grizzly bear, Jamaican goat penis soup, etc…”
So permit me to tick off a few of my favorites.
An early one was an assignment from Kay Fanning, who had just taken over as editor of the Anchorage Daily News after her husband Larry died, to investigate a war that had broken out among massage parlor operators in Anchorage. Our task was to determine whether organized crime from the Lower 48 states was moving in to take over vice as the trans-Alaska pipeline was about to be built.
My young partner Howard Weaver and I spent several months late at night driving all over Anchorage, which is the size of Rhode Island, writing down license plate numbers so we could determine who worked at the parlors. I also recall convincing a young woman reporter to apply for a job at a parlor so we could accurately describe what was really going on. She was so scared that she agreed to do it only if I sat outside in my old Volvo with a broken heater when it was 20 degrees below zero cradling a Smith & Wesson .38 in my lap to protect her in case she got in trouble. Fortunately, she came out unscathed and wrote a great and funny story.
While we were in the final stretch, Howard and I had discovered that an American soldier who ran a drug rehabilitation program at Elmendorf Air Force base was married to a Korean massage parlor madam.
The man was using the soldiers he was supposed to be helping to smuggle drugs in caskets coming back from Vietnam. The madam was the brains of the operation, so when she discovered the two of us sitting in the waiting room of her establishment talking to one of her hookers about drugs, she called the police. And since they were no friends of the Anchorage Daily News, we were hauled off to jail. At that moment, a local TV reporter who had been out cruising the bars showed up to film us being led out in handcuffs. I must say that Kay Fanning -- who bailed us out at 6 a.m. -- was a real trouper about that one.
Howard Weaver and two other reporters who succeeded me continued our investigation by delving into the Teamsters control of the North Slope and won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. By then, I had enplaned for the Washington Star and my first beat there, Fairfax County, Va.
A few months later, Seymour Hersh broke the story about the CIA’s vast domestic spying operation. Since the CIA was the largest employer in Fairfax County, I convinced the Star to let me do an alleged feature story. The CIA would not even disclose how many stories its then new headquarters had -- let alone the number of employees.
So, using the endless hours I had put in covering planning and zoning, I looked up the sewage flow from the CIA building, then contacted the lobbying organization that represented plumbers and got the average daily water usage for white collar workers. We put all the math in the paper, as I estimated how many employes the Agency actually had. Perhaps more important, this story led me to my first big scoop in Washington: the Fairfax City police had been helping CIA security officers with break-ins.
One of my favorite stories at ABC’s “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings”, I did with a brilliant young producer named Richard Greenberg. Together, we unraveled what would have been a sweetheart deal for Ricky Strauss, the son of legendary Washington lawyer, facilitator and public servant Bob Strauss.
We discovered that M. Danny Wall, on his last day in office as head of the Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corporation, was going to approve a deal that would have allowed Ricky Strauss to buy from the government a big housing development called Stonebridge Ranch. The only catch was that Strauss was the guy who had built the project, which had already cost taxpayers nearly $300 million in defaulted S&L loans.
Knowing that Strauss senior would immediately call the top brass at ABC News, I used the training I was lucky enough to have gotten as a journalism fellow at the Yale Law School. I prepared a brief -- with exhibits A through Q backing up our story -- for ABC News President Roone Arledge and everyone else in the chain of command. Sure enough, within 30 minutes of our call to the younger Strauss in Texas, his father was on the phone to Arledge.
But we never knew that -- until much later. I learned that months after the story had run, Bob Strauss had again cornered Arledge, this time at a New Year’s Eve party and taken him right up to midnight complaining about how my story at ABC had ruined his son’s life.
I also spent a year in Little Rock investigating the Clintons and Whitewater. Here are two still tantalizing stories that have never been cracked:
1. Where is the $1,000 check Hillary Clinton supposedly wrote to cover her initial investment in the commodities market that produced almost $100,000 in profits?
2. Did then-governor Clinton really come on wittingly to Paula Jones -- or in an absurd Spy Magazine “separated at birth” episode -- did he actually think he was making a play for a notorious Little Rock rock and roll groupie -- who just happens to resemble Paula Jones?
But perhaps my single best assignment was the last story I did for Forbes in 1988 before I moved on to ABC. My marching orders from Jim Michaels -- the legendarily tough editor of Forbes -- essentially were to bag any big game I stumbled on during a seven-week circumnavigation of the world.
Working on this side of the ocean with my friend and colleague Pranay Gupte, I was on the trail of the great global conspiracy: arms and drug smuggling, international money laundering, nuclear weapons development and political assassination, specifically the still unsolved killing of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme.
We had a working thesis: namely that somehow Palme’s death was tied into the political fallout from a corrupt arms deal between a Scandinavian arms company, its intermediaries and the government of India. And, since I was working for Forbes, how the money was flowing -- in oceans of profits generated from drugs and smuggling -- was of great interest to me.
Following that old Columbia Journalism School dictum that if you want to find real dirt about a man, just look up his scorned wife, I went to Pakistan to learn about India.
That’s how the piece ended up really being in part about the Bank of Credit & Commerce International, a bank I had first written about -- and been tossed out of in the Bahamas, Panama and the Caymans -- years earlier when I was investigating money laundering in the Netherlands Antilles.
Sometimes, reporters get insights from the simple act of going someplace that’s ridiculously difficult to get to and/or is forbidden territory. That’s my excuse for what I now realize was a dumb, possibly suicidal, foray. At the time, it seemed like a perfectly logical field trip -- a 2 a.m. ride in a chartered rowboat to a treacherous little patch in Karachi harbor called Smugglers Island.
I went there with two purposes in mind. Since money is fungible, I figured if I could find one of the legendary gold smugglers operating there, maybe I could convince him to explain how the arms and drug money moved in that part of the world.
Second, on the row out to the island, I could take some photographs of the secret, off limits Pakistani naval base that reportedly was the locus of CIA-funded arms shipments to the Afghan guerrillas fighting the Russian military.
So why did I not get bopped on the head -- and relieved of my Nikons? Probably because earlier that night I had interviewed and had dinner with Asif Ali Zardari, the man who had just married the then-exiled Benazir Bhutto. We went to dinner, followed by two Jeep loads of AK-47 toting guards, and based on what happened later in the same trip, I would not be surprised were I to learn that I was being tailed by police -- who invisibly to me -- kept the locals at bay around Smugglers Island.
Both Benazir, who I interviewed in London, and her husband, were acute observers of how both General Zia ul-Haq, then the ruler of Pakistan, and Indira Gandhi, raised money and handled overseas accounts. Benazir also, I believe, rightfully suspected that the Pakistani founder of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International was one of the forces behind the execution of her father, Ali Bhutto. Her husband also knew a great deal about the Bank of Credit & Commerce International and the techniques of bribery, smuggling and money-laundering. So imagine my surprise -- or lack of it -- when I read in the New York Times fairly recently about his arrest on money-laundering charges that could have been taken from the playbook of the people I had been chasing.
The story got even more fascinating as I moved on to Peshawar, where the Mujahedin camped out. I immediately got a severe case of dysentery but undeterred, I bought some local clothes, and thus equipped, began travelling in mufti. I hired a local driver who took me to the Khyber Pass and within one mile of Afghanistan.
He was rightly terrified that we would be robbed, while I was fascinated by the beggar and dancing bear who materialized when we stopped for a drink and fuel. Out in the desert, we passed a huge fort -- made of mud bricks -- that extended perhaps a quarter mile along the road.
Some intelligence officers had suggested to me that it was in this location where I would find the home of one of the biggest drug smugglers in Pakistan. With some trepidation, the driver confirmed that it was, so I insisted that we stop. As it turned out, we were given a tour of the digs despite the fears of my driver/interpreter. About 15 minutes down the road -- as we approached the next walled compound, three dozen men burst into the road, firing automatic weapons. For a moment, the driver thought this was the end of us, while I simply was not sure what was going on. Then he realized we had stumbled across a wedding and this was simply part of the celebration.
(At the American club bar a few days later, I suggested to the Wall Street Journal reporter that this might be a great story. Sure enough -- it was good enough for page 1 a short time later, complete with statistics about how many people in Pakistan were believed to be killed annually by random gunfire from celebrations)
But my driver was getting the hang of it.
He was taking pictures by the time we were returning to Peshawar via a famous little village of gunsmiths where the local specialty was making knockoffs of AK-47 automatic rifles.
Naturally, now that I need it for this article, I cannot locate a print of the shot he made of me firing a rented AK47 into the air. It is a classic: the repeating kickback from the automatic weapon caused my drawstring to loosen and reveal a butt cheek as my pants drifted toward my ankles. Who says journalism isn’t glamorous?