When journalist Tom Schoenberg, a longtime reporter for Bloomberg News, was contacted by a family friend about my grandma’s upcoming trial against her grandsons Evan and Avi and their former employer J.P. Morgan, he reached out to better understand the dynamics of the legal proceedings.
My first call with Tom took place on October 9, 2020, just one week before Nanny’s FINRA trial was set to begin. It was a conference call, with Tom in Washington D.C., me in New Jersey, and Nanny in Florida. My grandma’s devoted live-in aide Dawn Henry also participated on the sidelines as Nanny spoke, occasionally chiming in to remind her of certain key dates and facts.
I didn’t know it then, but that first hour-long conversation with Tom would be the beginning of a five-months-long working relationship with Bloomberg News. It was a rich and eye-opening experience that has made me even more respectful of professional journalism, and particularly of Tom and of Bloomberg News—the outlet’s careful evaluation of all sides, the integrity and fairness in their final reporting, and once the story was out, their astonishing global reach.
Quickly becoming the point-person for Tom’s ongoing questions and requests for information, Tom and I emailed or texted back-and-forth on an almost daily basis for all those months. At every twist and turn of Nanny’s dramatic trial, I gave him real-time updates. I also facilitated numerous interviews between him and other family members who were key players in Nanny’s battle for justice after years of financial elder abuse.
Nanny and I chose to keep our conversations with Tom private during this long investigative period. We did not inform her lawyers about these interviews until after the trial concluded because we didn’t want to jeopardize her ability to win her case. Tom agreed—he too did not want to impede the FINRA proceedings while he painstakingly developed his story.
In mid-December, about halfway through Tom’s vetting process, his team at Bloomberg asked if they could send a photographer and videographer to Nanny’s condo. Through Tom’s continuous updates, Bloomberg recognized the captivating nature of our ordeal, and they wanted visuals to further enhance Nanny’s story. Though nervous, my grandma hesitantly agreed. By sheer coincidence, I was visiting my grandma at this time, staying in a small apartment down the street. As a result, I was able to act as liaison between the Bloomberg photographer, the videographers, and my grandmother.
On December 30, I met the Bloomberg photographer and two videographers in the lobby of my grandmother’s building and escorted them upstairs to her condominium. The staff was equipped with standing lights, multiple cameras, microphones, and other equipment. I began to experience nervous energy as we entered the freight elevator toward the rear of the complex.
My hand shook ever so slightly as I pressed the button for floor number five. I was terrified the elevator might accidentally stop at the fourth floor, one floor below Nanny’s apartment. That’s the floor where Evan and Avi’s parents live. My aunt and uncle encouraged Nanny to let their sons manage my grandma’s portfolio in 2006 so they could secure brokerage jobs. I held my breath as the elevator ascended. “Ding!” the elevator chimed. I breathed a sigh of relief—we had safely arrived on the fifth floor.
I had not expected to participate in any of the photos or video footage that day, but Nanny was apprehensive among all the strangers with their high-tech equipment, and she insisted that I stay close-by. Nanny’s caretaker Dawn and I ended up sitting on either side of her like two bookends as my grandma gave a lengthy on-camera interview. When addressed, I felt minor stage fright but tried to remain guarded, confident, and above all supportive to Nanny.
In the end, the interview lasted several hours, and Nanny, Dawn, and I were depleted by the time everyone packed up their equipment and left. I didn’t know how we had come across or what material—if any—Bloomberg would use from that day; at the moment I was just relieved it was over.
In early February of 2021 I was flying home to New Jersey after spending two months in Florida when FINRA rendered its final judgment. The arbitrators ruled that J.P. Morgan and my first cousin Evan Schottenstein were liable for elder abuse against my grandmother. FINRA further declared that J.P. Morgan, Evan, and Avi were liable for constructive fraud, abuse of fiduciary duty, and fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions. The award was a staggering $19 million dollars.
Grateful, I forwarded the verdict to Tom from the plane tarmac shortly after landing. We had not expected the judgment so soon, and Tom, after patiently waiting for months for the trial to conclude, suddenly found himself in a mad sprint to get his article out before other media outlets picked up the story.
Nanny had offered Bloomberg the exclusive back in October. She was anxious to not just tell her story, but to have it told fairly, thoughtfully, and comprehensively—exactly what Tom did. Over the months, we had developed a strong rapport with Tom. Despite all the recent attention, both Nanny and I are normally private people. We wanted to share our story to help warn others of financial elder abuse and to inspire other victims to step forward and seek justice.
The Bloomberg article and first video came out on February 17, 2021, one day before my thirty-ninth birthday. I never anticipated so many people from all walks of life would show such keen interest in Nanny’s story.
Yesterday, Bloomberg released a brand new, longer video from that fateful on-camera interview.
If you watch it, you can judge for yourself how well it conveys Nanny’s story. And, if you’re in a generous mood, please send me your feedback. I’d love to hear your reaction.