The Craft Revisited: Tom Wright on Investigation

Freddie Luchterhand-Dare
April 6, 2023

In this episode of The Craft Revisited, our Ocular fund lead, Amy talks to the investigative journalist Tom Wright, author of Billion Dollar Whale and co-founder of Project Brazen, producer of the captivating Fat Leonard podcast.

It's a rich conversation about the art of investigation - and how we might apply some of the techniques to our own diligence processes. Here are some of our key takeaways:

  • Need to look at information independently in terms of its source. In Tom’s investigation at the start of the 1MDB case, he acquired two pieces of key information - documents on bank statements but also information from a senior Malaysian official. If something is true, then it is true regardless of where its source is.  

  • He likens the investigative process to a snowball - once the snowball starts rolling as journalists embark on their search for information, more and more people come forward willingly with information that helps the investigation gain momentum.

  • To be an investigative journalist, tenacity is crucial. There is a lot of information that needs to be dug through for a key piece of content. Following up on this information often requires even more effort investigating and identifying the correct strings to pull on. Tom refers to his journey traveling to Hawaii to interview store employees based on a piece of information from the 1MDB case.

  • When encountering what seems like a dead-end in terms of information, what can be done is to look for alternative sources to break through with reporting.

  • Doing due diligence is crucial for a VC firm. One should make sure employees are empowered to ask more questions about things that might appear suspicious and escalating it.  

  • Everyone should be skeptical.

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