Investigations are being launched by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to see if their employees were spied on by Bloomberg reporters, too. But they may find Bloomberg reporters didn't always use the terminals to get scoops. They used them for fun on slow days, instead.
Yesterday, the New York Post reported a Goldman Sachs employee filed a complaint with Bloomberg LP after a reporter let something slip. He asked a Goldman source what was happening with a partner who hadn't signed on to his Bloomberg-leased terminal in a while. The Goldman source was shocked to learn the Bloomberg reporter could access that information. So the parent company promised Goldman Sachs it would curtail reporters' access to terminal information.
As The Atlantic Wire's Phillip Bump explained, the terminals Bloomberg leases to the biggest powers in finance is a multi-billion dollar business. Our sister site Quartz looked at the different things Bloomberg employees would have access to, including when someone logged onto their terminal and customer's transcripts with the help desk. Besides seeing when people were logging on, we don't know what Bloomberg reporters did with the terminals. New details have come out showing what, exactly, Bloomberg employees were doing with their access.
"To me, the fact that Bloomberg doesn't far out-scoop everyone means: a) snooping wasn't very valuable or b) reporters weren't good at it," New York's finance reporter Kevin Roose said on Twitter Saturday. And what we know so far lends credence to the former rather than the latter. If the information was valuable, the reports about what Bloomberg reporters did with the power haven't shown it. The New York Times reports "several hundred" of Bloomberg's 2,400 worldwide journalists knew how to access the terminal information. The company is handling an internal investigation into their reporters' terminal snooping, but what they're going to find is underwhelming for the most part.
Quartz reported several Bloomberg employees would look up transcripts of famous customers receiving technical support on slow days to help pass the time. "The transcripts were typically mundane and hardly incriminating, but who wouldn’t enjoy watching a former US Federal Reserve chairman struggle to use a computer?" they explain. And it's true! It's not uncommon for employees of technical support companies to look up the files of famous customers. This writer knows multiple people who have looked up Apple technical support records of the rich and famous while bored on slow work days. "Bloomberg staffers reading Greenspan's transcripts reminds me of when I used to work at Balthazar and look up Anna Wintour's dining history," former media critic Foster Kamer said on Twitter.
Or there are the employees who would look up the Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geinther just to impress the new guys in the newsroom, as CNBC reports:
The former Bloomberg employee who worked in the editorial section recalled calling up the information on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner "just for fun" and displaying the information to new recruits "to show how powerful" the Bloomberg terminals were.
The former employee said he recalled seeing the functions used by the Fed Chairman and Treasury Secretary and the number of times those functions had been used. The person did not recall which specific functions he saw, but said it would have been at a broad level.
There's little indication reporters could have gleaned scoops from the terminal information they could access. CNBC's Bloomberg source explained they could see when a broker accessed global equity indexes, but could not see which markets they were looking at. Knowing that a broker is looking at global indexes isn't scoop worthy information. You can assume any broker on Wall Street worth their weight would be monitoring what's happening in global financial markets.
But what Bloomberg has to worry about are the investigations being done by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, according to the Times and CNBC, to see if Bloomberg reporters were tracking their employees. Let's hope they buy the "just for fun" to impress the new guys excuse.