March 23, 2003
From Ashes of Scandal, a Ghostwriter Rises
e did it, it was wrong, he apologized, he was punished and he has gone on with his life.
That, R. Foster Winans says, is how he views his nationally spotlighted plunge in the 1980's and his quiet climb back.
Mr. Winans, who had been a Wall Street Journal reporter, was convicted of fraud in 1985 for having used his advance knowledge of Journal articles to make illicit profits in the stock market. He had worked with two brokers who bought and sold stocks based on the information he gave them about what was to appear in the paper's "Heard on the Street" column, which he and Journal colleagues wrote and which could affect the prices of the stocks it mentioned.
Prosecutors estimated that the scheme had netted $675,000, though Mr. Winans and his roommate, also a conspirator, shared just $31,000 of that. After serving eight months in prison, Mr. Winans, who had been fired by The Journal, publicly receded to the status of a historical footnote in articles and books about securities fraud. Privately, he began a new career ghostwriting books.
In 1994, he left New York for Bucks County, Pa., where he had grown up. "New York represented to me a lot of ghosts," Mr. Winans, 55, said last week. "Many of my friends had died of AIDS and my career had died."
He started a nonprofit center, the Writers Room of Bucks County, in Doylestown, so that he and other local writers could meet and have work space. Today it also offers writing workshops and publishes a literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, which Mr. Winans edits. He also speaks publicly on topics like business ethics.
After his departure from those ethics, his difficulty getting writing assignments under his own name is "one reason I'm a ghostwriter," he said, though, he added, he enjoys the work.
A book he did write under his own name had marketing value precisely because it carried his name. It was his account of his case, "Trading Secrets: Seduction and Scandal at The Wall Street Journal" (St. Martin's Press, 1986).
Of the events in that book, he said last week, "I apologized to everybody, and let's move on."