• The total number of full-time foreign correspondents employed by
U. S. newspapers, taken from the American Journalism Review; and
• The approximate number of full-time foreign correspondents working on dangerous assignments, as compared to all full-time foreign
correspondents, and what portion of the year they were in dangerous situations. This data was derived from numerous interviews
with currently employed journalists.
My analysis of death rates for reporters since 1992
showed that American correspondents are more likely to
be killed in war zones than other nationalities, and I conservatively used this higher probability because Marie
held a U.S. passport.
A MISSED RETIREMENT PLAN
At the time of her death, Marie had no thoughts of retirement – quite the contrary, both her sister and employer
stated that they believed Marie would have worked for
as long as possible, and despite past injuries, she was in
generally good health. Because Marie never talked about
her retirement, I had to use the available data and my own
judgment to determine what her retirement years might
have looked like, so as to apply the “war zone” risk adjustment only to those years prior to her retirement.
Based on the statements of people close to Marie, her
employer’s retirement plan documents, and my analysis
of retirement ages and relevant laws in the UK, I identified two possible ages when she might have retired – 65
and at 70. The judge agreed on 70, as she didn’t have any
plans to retire earlier. However, considering that it would
have been hard for her to work in war zones after age 65,
I provided the Court with an estimate based on Marie retiring from work in conflict zones by age 65, even if she
continued to serve in other roles as a journalist.
FINAL CALCULATIONS AND OUTCOME
My expert opinion was only one small part of the
painstakingly thorough case that CJA and Shearman
& Sterling presented to U.S. District Judge Amy Ber-
man Jackson of the District of Columbia, documented
by more than 1,000 pages of exhibits, declarations and
expert reports. Based on a gross earnings approach and
projections related to Marie’s employment, but without
accounting for other potential and likely income from
other media projects, I calculated the economic loss from
Marie’s death as more than $2.3 million had she instead
retired at 70. At the Court’s request, I also adopted a “net
loss” model incorporating an adjustment for “personal
consumption,” resulting in a loss of $1.1 million.
In February 2019, the Court accepted my methodology and awarded actual economic damages of $1.1
million. That figure was added to the $300 million in
punitive damages assessed by Judge Jackson, due to
the “outrageous” nature of the extrajudicial killing.
While the Syrian government declined to participate
the proceedings, the punitive award is not merely symbolic. Mr. Weisburg’s legal team will be attempting to
collect the judgment from various extraterritorial Syrian assets on behalf of the Colvin family members who
are beneficiaries of Marie’s estate.
I recently watched the movie “A Private War” and
saw Marie’s life played out on the screen. I’m proud
that my work contributed to a satisfactory conclusion of
the case. Yet no matter how accurate my valuation could
be, it will never include the personal loss felt by Marie’s
family, and the blow to international journalism and free
societies when we lose heroes like Marie Colvin.
Dr. Maria Tsennykh is a Senior Director in the Forensic & Litigation
Consulting segment of FTI Consulting, Inc. She is based in New
York. FTI Consulting, Inc., including its subsidiaries and affiliates, is
a consulting firm and is not a certified public accounting firm or a
law firm. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and
not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management,
its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.
In 2012, journalist Marie Colvin was killed while
covering the siege of Homs, Syria for the British
newspaper The Sunday Times. F TI Consulting’s Dr.
Maria Tsennykh was tasked with coming up
with the economic value of her life.