June 11, 2012— Former Wall Street Journal investigative reporter Ellen E. Schultz has won the 2012 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for her revealing work Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers.
Schultz took home the top prize of $15,000 at a June 5 ceremony at the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. It marked the 25th anniversary of the Bernstein Award, established in 1987 through a gift from Joseph Frank Bernstein in honor of journalist Helen Bernstein. Helen Bernstein and members of her family were in attendance at the ceremony, and remarks were made by New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx, Bernstein Selection Committee Chairman James F. Hoge, and acclaimed journalist Lynn Scherr.
“At a time when journalism has become largely about entertainment, it's gratifying and wonderful that Helen Bernstein and The New York Public Library support journalism in the public interest,” said Schultz, who has won numerous awards for her economic, financial, and investigative reporting, including three Polk Awards, two Loeb Awards, and a National Press Club Award.
Retirement Heist was one of five finalists chosen out of over 100 submissions for the 2012 Bernstein Award. The other four nominees were The Pirates of Somalia by Jay Bahadur, Killing the Cranes by Edward Girardet, Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn, and Counterstrike by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker. The winner was chosen by the Bernstein Selection Committee, and the four runners-up received $1,000 each.
The Bernstein Award is given to journalists whose books have brought clarity and public attention to important issues, events, or policies. Previous winners of the award include Jane Mayer, Charlie Savage, Philip Gourevitch, Lawrence Wright, David Remnick and David Finkel. Shane Harris won last year for his book The Watchers.
In her book, Schultz investigates the “retirement crisis,” exposing the actions of major corporations who have “plundered” their pensions and “picked the pockets” of retirees.
“Over the years, I've become interested in how companies owe their earnings not just to the sale of goods or services, but from getting their hands into someone else's pocket,” Schultz said. “It can be the taxpayers' pockets – think defense contractors, utilities, lenders and others whose earnings would tank without subsidies, lucrative contracts, bailouts or tax breaks. In recent years, companies have also profited from picking the pockets of retirees, essentially capturing hundreds of billions of dollars in pensions and retiree benefits. For shareholders, it's a quality of earnings issue; for employees and retirees, it's a quality of life issue.”