There Are Two Questions About The Spying Scandal That Bloomberg Still Hasn't Answered

bloomberg matthew winklerMatthew Winkler, Bloomberg News editor in chief.

Bloomberg has been hit by a scandal involving its reporters using private client data from Bloomberg Terminal users

to fuel their coverage of news stories. Bloomberg has called this behaviour a “mistake.”

But there are still some outstanding questions about exactly what private client information reporters were able to access, as well as whether reporters were encouraged to snoop on clients by senior editors at Bloomberg News or whether they did this on their own without senior management knowing.

We have asked Bloomberg to address these questions, but the company has declined to respond on the record.

If you’re not familiar with Bloomberg Terminals, they are machines targeted toward financial professionals that allow them to access news, data, stock quotes and message one another. They cost about $20,000 per year. 

The New York Post revealed last week that Bloomberg reporters have used private client data from terminal users at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan for stories. After Goldman complained about an unnamed reporter pointing out that a partner at the bank had not logged in and inquired if he had left the firm, Bloomberg cut off access to this data for its reporters. 

Bloomberg has said that its reporters could only see general functions that its clients were using, not the specific securities the clients looked at or the specific communications the clients sent and received (with the exception of transcripts of calls to Bloomberg’s help desk).  Bloomberg also said in several statements that reporters could not see which news stories clients were reading.

Gawker, however, has reported that that reporters could look at an individual story and find out who read it and who emailed it.  The function on the Bloomberg Terminal to do this, the Gawker source said, is 2<GO>. An anonymous source who claimed to be a former Bloomberg editor told us the same thing.

In other words, this source asserted, reporters could not look at a specific client and see which stories he or she was reading, but they could look at a story and see who had read it.

We checked with several sources at Bloomberg about this. All three denied the Gawker report, saying that the 2<GO> function merely shows how many people had read a particular story, not who had read it.

Another question that Bloomberg has yet to answer is whether Bloomberg News reporters were encouraged to use private data to spy on clients, or whether they did this on their own.

Gawker has reported that the spying scandal originated at the top.  According to Gawker, the editor in chief of Bloomberg News, Matthew Winkler, encouraged reporters to check to see if specific bankers were using the “job listings” function on the terminal as a way of detecting whether they might soon being leaving their firms.

Bloomberg provided an on-the-record comment to Gawker, but it did not challenge this assertion.    

Bloomberg has not publicly laid the blame for the spying scandal at anyone’s feet. But both Dan Doctoroff, Bloomberg’s CEO, and Matt Winkler, Bloomberg’s editor in chief, have publicly apologized.

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