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Bloomberg cuts journalist access to client info

LOS ANGELES Financial data and news company Bloomberg LP said Friday that it had corrected a "mistake'' in its news-gathering policies and cut off its journalists' special access to client log-in data on the company's ubiquitous trading information terminals after Goldman Sachs complained about the matter last month.

A person familiar with the matter said Goldman Sachs became concerned about outside access after a Bloomberg reporter, investigating what she thought was the departure of a Goldman employee, told the securities firm that the employee had not logged into a Bloomberg terminal for a number of weeks.

The person was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

In a memo sent to staff Friday, Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff said the company had "long made limited customer relationship data available to our journalists,'' but added, "we realize this was a mistake.''

After the complaint last month, Bloomberg "immediately'' turned off its journalists' special access and limited it to what clients can see themselves, he said.

The dispute was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Bloomberg News reporters had been able to see when any of the company'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 were accessing.

Doctoroff said in his memo that access did not extend to "trading, portfolio, monitor, blotter or other related systems or our clients' messages. Moreover, reporters could not see news stories that clients read, or the securities they viewed.''

Although Goldman's concerns caused the change, JPMorgan Chase & Co. had also expressed concerns about Bloomberg journalists' access to private data.

A person familiar with the matter at JPMorgan said multiple Bloomberg reporters had used the data to try to break news in the last several years. The person said Bloomberg journalists used their access, attempting to find out whether disciplinary action had been taken against Bruno Iksil, a JPMorgan trader nicknamed the "London whale'' who was blamed for a $6 billion trading loss last year.

One reporter knew details about the log-in times of multiple traders on a single desk and called daily to ask about potential layoffs, the person said. JPMorgan complained to the reporters about the technique, but Bloomberg managers weren't made aware of a formal complaint.

The person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and requested anonymity.

Bloomberg reporters are renowned for aggressive techniques in a competitive field.

In November 2010, the news service reported on the earnings of The Walt Disney Co. and NetApp Inc. well before the companies' scheduled releases by guessing the unprotected website addresses of the press releases before they were made public.

The public relations gaffes, which resulted in immediate but fleeting dips in the stock prices of both companies, resulted in the companies taking action to prevent a recurrence.