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Bloomberg tightens media access

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NEW YORK -- Financial data and news company Bloomberg LP said Wednesday it has put in place new policies and procedures designed to prevent its journalists from accessing the subscriber information of its Wall Street clients.

The moves stem from an outside review that followed complaints earlier this year that journalists in Bloomberg's news division were accessing client log-in activity on trading-information terminals maintained by the company's professional service unit.

The review, led by the law firm Hogan Lovells and the regulatory compliance firm Promontory Financial Group, found Bloomberg journalists' access to trading-terminal information didn't result from a lapse in oversight, but from a "long-standing policy" that allowed them to have access.

"We know we needed to evolve, and we have learned from our mistakes," Bloomberg CEO and president Daniel Doctoroff said in a statement.

In addition, while "a number of journalists" used their access for such things as looking up contact or biographical information, or check the date of a trader's last login to see if they were still working for a particular firm, the review found just two instances where the information was used directly in a story.

According to the review, concerns about the accessing of terminal information also arose two years ago after a Bloomberg Television anchor mentioned the use of terminal information during a broadcast, but no action was taken by executives because of "misunderstandings about who was responsible for doing so."

The report noted the changes Bloomberg has made since the complaints surfaced -- including the elimination of reporter access to certain data -- and concluded the company currently has appropriate policies and controls in place.

Bloomberg said the review included the examination of more than 500,000 news stories, 425 employee interviews and 230,000 separate tests of client data systems, along with the examination of more than 350 documents, including policy manuals, training guides and client visit logs.

Bloomberg cut off its journalists' special access to terminal information after Goldman Sachs complained earlier this year, limiting them to what the company's clients can see themselves. It called the previous access a "mistake."

Bloomberg News reporters had been able to see when any of the professional service's 315,000 paying subscribers, mostly stock and bond traders, had last logged into the service.

They could also view the types of "functions" individual subscribers had accessed.

For instance, reporters could see if subscribers had been looking at top news stories, or if they had been gathering data on stocks or bonds. Reporters couldn't see the specific stories or bonds and stocks clients had looked up. Reporters could also see if subscribers were using "message" or "chat" functions to send messages to each other over the terminals, but not the content of messages or who received them.

Bloomberg said Wednesday it will continue to restrict journalists' access to client data and they will no longer have access to the company's anonymous chat rooms. It's also boosting its data security and corporate compliance controls, giving more oversight responsibilities to its audit committee and creating a centralized team that will oversee the granting of access to restricted data.

Bloomberg is also in the process of hiring a chief risk-and-compliance officer, who will report directly to the company's CEO, and has committed to periodic outside reviews of its compliance practices.

Bloomberg journalists are renowned for aggressive techniques in a competitive field. The company, whose main business is selling terminals to clients in the financial industry, employs more than 2,400 journalists.


-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2013 B9

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