Former Wall Street Journal reporter R. Foster Winans attempted Thursday to explain some statements he made last year to the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he appeared to have admitted being persuaded by a Wall Street broker to write a column.
In his testimony in U.S. District Court here, Winans denied that he had ever been induced by anyone to write one of his Heard on the Street columns. And he said he never slanted an article to move the stock of a company.
Winans was on the stand for the fourth day in his trial on charges of securities, mail and wire fraud and conspiracy in connection with a scheme in which he leaked advance information from his column to Kidder, Peabody & Co. broker Peter N. Brant. Brant has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges and is cooperating with the government.
Winans' roommate, David Carpenter, and Kenneth P. Felis, another Kidder, Peabody broker, are also on trial here.
During Thursday's testimony, Winans' attorney, Don Buchwald, played a tape of a portion of the reporter's testimony before SEC investigators last March 29. A transcript of the portion, concerning a favorable column about Digital Switch Corp. that the Journal published Jan. 19, 1984, had already been entered as a government exhibit.
Buchwald said later that he played the tape because the "cold, hard transcript did not reflect what Winans intended to say." He has been emphasizing throughout the defense testimony that, although Winans and Brant had a deal for advance information about the column, the articles themselves were journalistically pure.
In the SEC testimony, Winans recalled that "Mr. Brant, from time to time, would say, 'Well, look, we'll make a big hit and we'll have a distribution, and everybody'll get a $100,000, or $50,000 or something like that." SEC investigators asked Winans whether the distribution mentioned by Brant was a factor in his decision to write the article.
"It was a factor, yes," Winans replied last year.
But Thursday, Winans insisted that that statement "was inconsistent with everything I had said (to the SEC) up to that point."
"I don't know whether I was mishearing the question," Winans said. "I know that Mr. Brant offered an inducement, but it had absolutely no influence on my news judgment on the newsworthiness of the article."