Netflix, John Wells Take on Panama Papers

Netflix has acquired exclusive rights to the book Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money, with John Wells Productions adapting the story into a feature film for television. John Wells, Claire Rudnick Polstein and Zach Studin are the principals on the project at John Wells Productions.

The Panama Papers scandal broke earlier this year, when millions of documents from a Panamanian law firm were spilled. Netflix describes the Panama Papers story as “thousands of secret bank accounts, a long list of the rich and powerful, and an insane accumulation of wealth hiding in plain sight just beyond the reach of governments,” which German investigative journalists Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer broke open.

“We are confident that between the expert investigative work of Obermaier and Obermayer, the only journalists in touch directly with [anonymous source] John Doe, the ICIJ [International Consortium of Investigative Journalists], and the master storytelling of John Wells Productions, we will be able to deliver a gripping tale that will deliver the same type of impact as the Panama Papers when they were first revealed on the world’s front pages,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix.

Marina Walker, ICIJ deputy director, and Gerard Ryle, who leads the ICIJ’s headquarters staff in Washington D.C., and oversaw the more than 400 journalists in 76 countries on the Panama Papers, are also onboard on the film.

Netflix did not reveal a target date for premiere.

“We could not be more excited to be working with Netflix on this project," said Polstein, John Wells Productions president of features. "They have an excellent track record of producing top notch filmmaking and together, we are very much looking forward to getting started on shedding light on one of the most compelling news stories in recent memory.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.