Report: Bloomberg News Snooping Included Bernanke, Geithner

Report: Bloomberg News Snooping Included Bernanke, Geithner

According to The New York Times, the snooping done by Bloomberg News reporters to subscribers of the 300,000-plus Bloomberg terminals that provide instant financial news to executives and staffers of Wall Street clients such as Goldman Sachs, was so systemic and ingrained, that learning how to snoop was an informal but accepted part of newsroom training:

Matthew Winkler, editor in chief of Bloomberg News, underscored that the practice was at one time commonplace. In an editorial published on Bloomberg View late Sunday night, he said the practice of allowing reporters access to limited subscriber information dated back to the inception of the news arm of the giant financial information company founded by Michael R. Bloomberg. …

Bloomberg’s more than 2,400 journalists go through hours of compulsory training on how to use the superfast data-splicing terminals, and several former employees said that training included informal tips on how to use a function called UUID to locate sources who were also subscribers.

Worse still, the snooping was an institutionalized part of the newsroom’s discussion when it came to breaking news: “There was always a discussion in the newsroom of how to use the terminals to break news,” said one former Bloomberg journalist. “That’s where it gets nuanced because I’m sure that in encouraging people to break news, Matt did not mean in this way,” this person added, referring to Mr. Winkler.

What you have to do is to imagine you are a Bloomberg customer paying $20,000 a year to have access to the terminals that made Mayor Michael Bloomberg worth around $25 billion. You are coughing up a premium price for instant market analysis, news, and information. But at the same time, unbeknownst to you, the Bloomberg News division is accessing your activity on the terminal; a reporter is looking up how frequently you logged in, what you searched for, and monitoring  your chats with Bloomberg customer service representatives.

Now, as an American, consider the fact that these terminals are not only used by Wall Street traders and executives, but are also found in other news organizations, the Vatican, and Congress.

CNBC is reporting that the spying included terminals used by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and that this snooping occurred “a number of times.”

The Feds have just announced they might looking into this. Well, I hope so.

The question that the Feds and the media need to start asking is what Michael Bloomberg knew. Though he retains a financial stake in the company, after he became mayor of New York in 2001, Bloomberg gave up his responsibilities running day-to-day operations. But that hardly matters when Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, admits that

The recent complaints go to practices that are almost as old as Bloomberg News. Since the 1990s, some reporters have used the terminal to obtain, as the Washington Post reported, “mundane” facts such as log-on information.

The 1990s was on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s watch.


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC