Blooming disaster: Bloomberg reporters access client intel

The editor of Bloomberg News, Matthew Winkler, has been forced to apologise after some of his reporters monitored the firm's clients' activities on its terminals.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

But the situation doesn’t look likely to go away for the sake of an apology: the European Central Bank is currently in talks with the financial data provider, trying to find out the extent to which Bloomberg journos were ‘spying’ on staff at other companies. It has upset a raft of companies, who pay $20,000 per year to receive financial information feeds from Bloomberg on live displays.

Winkler said: ‘Our reporters should not have access to any data considered proprietary. I am sorry they did. The error is inexcusable. At no time did reporters have access to trading, portfolio, monitor, blotter or other related systems. Nor fif they have access to clients’ messages to one another. They couldn’t see the stories that clients were reading or the securities clients might be looking at.’ 

For the time being though, this will probably do little to assuage the anger of the firms that may have been affected. It’s not enough for the ECB either. In a statement, the bank said: ‘The ECB takes the protection of confidentiality in the usage of data products by ECB management and staff very seriously. Our experts are in close contact with Bloomberg.’ That suggests to us that the fat lady has not yet started singing.

It's also been worsened by the fact that, according to the FT, lists of confidential Bloomberg messages between clients have been on the internet for several years. They were taken down when the newspaper inquired about them, apparently.

So who’s been affected by the alleged data breach? Well, Goldman Sachs was the first company to raise the issue with Bloomberg, as apparently some journalists admitted to Goldman’s staff that they had been keeping tags on them. 

The information that reporters were able to get their hands on included when each user accessed the computers hooked up to the feed, which particular news stories they looked at, and also when there was a sudden spike in the number of visits to staff Bloomberg profiles. It’s thought that that last one could help them to work out which individual traders might be embroiled in scandals.

Still, a bit of humble pie for Bloomberg, and considering traders, hedge funds, lawyers, bankers all over the world use its terminals, it’s a seriously bad bit of PR…

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