Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a correspondent for NPR's Planet Money where he reports on how the global economy is affecting our lives.

If that sounds a little dry, then you've never heard Planet Money. The team specializes in making economic reporting funny, engaging and understandable. Planet Money has been known to set economic indicators to music, use superheroes to explain central banks, and even buy a toxic asset just to figure it out.

Smith admits that he has no special background in finance or math, just a curiosity about how money works. That kind of curiosity has driven Smith for his 20 years in radio.

Before joining Planet Money, Smith was the New York correspondent for NPR. He was responsible for covering all the mayhem and beauty that makes it the greatest city on Earth. Smith reported on the rebuilding of Ground Zero, the stunning landing of US Air flight 1549 in the Hudson River and the dysfunctional world of New York politics. He specialized in features about the overlooked joys of urban living: puddles, billboards, ice cream trucks, street musicians, drunks and obsessives.

When New York was strangely quiet, Smith pitched in covering the big national stories. He traveled with presidential campaigns, tracked the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and reported from the BP oil spill.

Before his New York City gig, Smith worked for public radio stations in Seattle (KUOW), Salt Lake City (KUER) and Portland (KBOO). He's been an editor, a host, a news director and just about any other job you can think of in broadcasting. Smith also lectures on the dark arts of radio at universities and conferences. He trains fellow reporters how to sneak humor and action into even the dullest stories on tight deadlines.

Smith started in broadcasting playing music at KPCW in his hometown of Park City, Utah. Although the low-power radio station at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, likes to claim him as its own.

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11:08am

Mon July 9, 2012
Planet Money

Identifying The Real Victims In The LIBOR Scandal

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 5:16 pm

LIBOR affects many consumer credit rates, from mortgages to credit cards.
Theo Francis NPR

A lot of the coverage of the LIBOR scandal has focused on the ways that Barclays tried to manipulate LIBOR lower during the financial crisis, to make the bank look more secure. This has led some listeners to ask a good question: if rates were being shoved down, doesn't that help consumers? LIBOR, after all, is a financial benchmark that shows up in adjustable rate mortgages and other loans.

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8:13am

Mon July 9, 2012
Planet Money

Did The Bank of England Urge Barclays to Lie?

Morning light on the houses of Parliament in London, where Bank of England Deputy Governor Paul Tucker faces questions over his role in a banking scandal.
Christopher Furlong Getty Images

The scandal over LIBOR, a key global interest rate, has already hit banks around the world. Today, it moves to the very heart of the British government.

A deputy governor of the Bank of England will be quizzed by parliament on whether he told banks to lie to about the crucial interest rate.

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11:53am

Fri July 6, 2012
Planet Money

Rigging LIBOR: Banking Scandal Hits Home (Literally)

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 9:20 pm

Lefteris Pitarakis AP

The biggest scandal in the world right now has nothing to do with sex or celebrities. It's about an interest rate called LIBOR, or the London Interbank Offered Rate.

Most Americans probably never heard of LIBOR. When I first moved to New York, I hadn't. Back then, I could barely afford my apartment and got an adjustable rate mortgage. And so I wondered: When my rate adjusts, how will I know how much I'll be paying?

I searched through all the documents and it was right there — LIBOR. I would be paying a few percentage points above whatever LIBOR was.

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6:10am

Fri July 6, 2012
Business

Why The Barclays Scandal Affects More Than Britain

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 9:35 am

The Planet Money team digs into the rate-setting scandal engulfing the British bank Barclays. Emails reveal bank employees were shockingly casual and explicit in their communications about manipulating one of the key financial benchmarks in the global economy.

3:16am

Thu June 28, 2012
Planet Money

Going Public Is A Hassle

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 5:09 pm

Meh.
Richard Drew AP

Here's a classic story of how a multimillion-dollar company gets started.

A young guy named Seung Bak is on a trip to China. He gets back to his hotel room late one night and turns on the TV.

"I'm flipping through channels, and in the middle of China they are showing Korean dramas all around the clock," Bak says.

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12:17pm

Tue June 26, 2012
Planet Money

Hiding In Every Euro: Signs Of Doom!

Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

We always liked the lofty design of euro notes. Until Planet Money reader Peter Minnig wrote in to point out the secret messages hidden in the notes — clues that suggest all may not end well for the euro.

What follows are a combination of clues Minnig pointed out, and those we found ourselves.

(Sorry about that giant "Specimen" printed across the bills. We're just following the European Central Bank's anti-counterfeiting rules.)



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3:04am

Fri May 4, 2012
Planet Money

Food Trucks Seek 'That Mystical Spot'

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 2:55 pm

Lam Thuy Vo NPR

The Rickshaw Dumpling Truck is a retired postal van, painted red and filled with Chinese dumplings. I'm riding shotgun with Kenny Lao, the van's co-owner. It's a weekday morning, and we're driving into Manhattan looking for a killer spot to set up shop for the day.

"I think there is that mystical spot in midtown that every truck owner dreams of," Lao says. "Easy parking. It's a wide sidewalk. There's no restaurant but there's lots of offices."

There are 3,000 year-round food trucks and carts competing for that mystical spot. And no one has an official place to park.

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3:00am

Thu April 26, 2012
Planet Money

On The Million-Dollar Trail Of A Mystery SuperPAC Donor

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 11:19 am

Some superPAC donors are hiding from public scrutiny.
iStockphoto.com

The superPACs raising money to support presidential candidates have few restrictions. They can accept checks for any amount.

One rule they do have: They have to reveal who donated money.

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12:01am

Fri March 2, 2012
Planet Money

What The IRS Could Learn From Mormons

The money Mormons tithe goes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, and then is distributed to congregations around the world.
Douglas C. Pizac AP

Many religious traditions stress the importance of charity. But Mormons are remarkable for the amount and the precision with which they give to their church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that each Mormon in good standing should tithe 10 percent of his or her income. The money goes right to church headquarters in Salt Lake City and then is distributed back to congregations around the world.

"That's written in stone, and preached from the pulpit," says Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, San Diego, who is Mormon.

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4:50am

Fri December 30, 2011
Planet Money

Coconut Water Companies Sell Image, Not Taste

Originally published on Wed January 4, 2012 6:13 pm

godutchbaby Flickr

A couple of years ago if you wanted to drink coconut water, you had to buy your own coconut, bring it to your kitchen, and start whacking away with a knife.

Today, you can find packaged coconut water in a convenience store, Wal-Mart or your friendly neighborhood yoga studio.

"I think it was a great year for coconut water, " says Alejandra Simon, an assistant manager at the Laughing Lotus yoga studio in New York City. "I can't walk down the street without seeing someone with coconut water in their hands."

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