Former Wall Street Journal reporter R. Foster Winans testified Wednesday that he knew that, if his editors had found out that he was leaking information from his columns, he would have lost his job--but he didn’t think he would ever get caught.
Winans, 36, has admitted providing advance information about the Journal’s Heard on the Street stock-market column, which he wrote, to stockbroker Peter N. Brant. He has said that he did not know that he was breaking the law.
The journalist, his roommate, David Carpenter, and Kenneth P. Felis, Brant’s colleague at Kidder, Peabody & Co., are being tried on conspiracy and securities-fraud charges for trading stocks based on Winans’ information. Brant has pleaded guilty and is testifying for the government.
“It was my assumption that I would have been fired,” Winans said in answer to a question by his attorney, Don Buchwald. But, he added, “I had no expectation that the Wall Street Journal would ever learn of my relationship with Mr. Brant.”
Winans elaborated on why he became involved in the scheme, in which he was paid for providing advance information about the contents of his columns to Brant.
For one thing, he said, he wanted to see how much influence he could have on the stocks of companies he wrote about. “I had an intellectual curiosity if something like this would work,” he said.
He said he also liked Brant very much and wanted the opportunity “to be his friend. . . . He had a terrific sense of humor and I thought he was very generous.”
Winans re-emphasized earlier testimony that he became involved in the scheme because he and Carpenter were deeply in debt. “I did not realize what shape we were in. . . . Our checking account had a zero balance in October, 1983,” he said.
By contrast, he said, Brant’s life style was “romantic” and “he was wealthy beyond my imagination.”