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Thomson Reuters columnist resigns over conflict

Thomson Reuters

Eric J. Shelton/Eric J. Shelton/AP

Journalists at a financial news and analysis service owned by Thomson Reuters Corp. have violated a "compact with our readers" by failing to disclose conflicts of interest in their reporting, the company acknowledged on Monday.

A columnist, Neil Collins, resigned from Reuters Breakingviews late last week after repeatedly violating the company's code of conduct regarding journalists' personal investments. Mr. Collins had written opinion pieces about companies in which he owned shares, and also made trades after he wrote stories on some companies.

"While we have no evidence the journalist was abusing his position for financial gain, we take such breaches extremely seriously and that journalist resigned with immediate effect during our investigation," Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger wrote in an internal memo to staff on Monday.

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The company also questioned other reporters at Breakingviews and found "several other cases where disclosures to readers or managers could or should have been made," Mr. Schlesinger wrote. Those other cases are under investigation by the company.

A total of 53 articles have been identified as being in violation of the rules, with reporters either owning shares or making trades in companies such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Unilever Plc, and BP Plc. The company has added disclaimers to those articles noting the conflicts.

Reuters acquired one year ago as part of a move to provide more financial commentary in addition to the news that is already transmitted across its wire service. Mr. Collins was already employed by Thomson Reuters and moved into his position at Breakingviews after the deal, spokesperson Erin Kurtz said on Monday.

Breakingviews members include major news outlets such as the National Post, which has published daily columns from the service since September 2009. The New York Times also pays for Breakingviews content and is looking into the matter, said Times spokesperson Diane McNulty. Affected articles will not be removed from the Times website, she added, but a disclaimer will be included if necessary.

"The Times takes any sort of financial conflict very seriously," she added, noting that the Times does not allow reporters to own stock in companies they cover. Most major financial news media, including The Globe and Mail and the National Post, have similar rules.

Woodbridge Co. Ltd., the holding company for the Thomson family, holds a majority stake in Thomson Reuters and is the largest shareholder in The Globe and Mail.

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