Reuters Editor Finds Comedy Gold in Accusations That He's a Shill For Steven CohenS

Reuters' editor for global news thinks it's hilarious that, if you believe "some blogs and journalist talk," he and his boss bowed to pressure in killing an investigation into hedge fund manager Steven Cohen.

The idea that Reuters would kill a story, which the wire's chief editor described as "not a bad story, which had "nothing wrong with the reporting" and which "could have run", which was about a guy whose hedge fund owns $2 million worth of Thomson Reuters stock, and which the subject called the CEO of the firm's market division and asked him to spike it is so comical to Jack Reerink that he just had to cut loose. So he sent a note, obtained by TalkingBizNews' Chris Roush, to his editorial staff describing the imaginary conversation between himself, Reuters editor David Schlesinger, and Cohen that would have to happen in order for such a scenario to be true:

Me: We've got a bombshell here, Stevie. I'm about to push the button.

David: It's going to rock your world.

Me: Rock it.

Stevie: You can't do that. I'm worth $6 billion!

David: You got any insider tips? My UK apartment is under water.

[snip]

David: Lemmie spell that out for you, Stevie.

David: It's M O N E Y. That spells MONEY That's what we need.

[snip]

Stevie: OK, I would really appreciate it if you guys don't put out a story that's supposedly going to rock my world

Me: Say ‘Please.'

Stevie: Please.

[snip]

Me: OK, that settles it. It's a kill. We're gonna get some flak. But that's OK. Stevie's a nice guy.

Me: By the way, Stevie, my TDAmeritrade account is 39…

HA HA HA HA. This is funny because it's not true, you see? Because a preposterous fantasy like that is clearly the only way that Cohen could ever exert any sort of pressure on Reuters, because everyone knows that insidious, subtle pressure is never brought to bear on editors and that every transactional accommodation afforded wealthy investors by journalists is always spelled out in hyperbolic clarity. Either Schlesinger and Reerink killed the story for reasons that had nothing to do with Cohen's call, or Cohen literally bribed them. There's no murky space between those two poles, and since the bribery story is so difficult to believe, the whole thing must be on the up-and-up. Case closed.

We don't know why Schlesinger and Reerink killed the Cohen story. They won't say—even to their own reporters. Here's what we do know:

  • Reuters reporters Matthew Goldstein and Svea Herbst-Bayliss were working on a story related to allegations that Cohen engaged in insider trading in the 1980s.
  • Reuters lawyer Thomas Kim had read and signed off on the story.
  • According to "scuttlebutt" cited by a Reuters reporter during Wednesday's staff conference call—scuttlebutt that Schlesinger didn't dispute—unnamed Reuters editors had approved the story for publication.
  • Cohen called Thomson Reuters Markets CEO Devin Wenig to complain about the story.
  • Wenig called Schlesinger to pass along the complaint.
  • Schlesinger read the story and decided that it was "not a bad story," that there was "nothing wrong with the reporting," and that it "could have run." But he had questions about it.
  • In the conference call with staffers Wednesday, Schlesinger repeatedly declined to say what those questions were.
  • Schlesinger passed his "questions" along to Reerink.
  • Reerink killed the story.

So there you have it: Cohen's call clearly had nothing to do with it, and if Reerink and Schlesinger won't explain their decision, Reuters staffers should just trust them, because there's no evidence that Cohen directly paid them in cash. Here's the full memo:

Tip of the week – Ethics 101
Psst.. Did you hear that we killed a bombshell story about hedge fund king Stevie Cohen the other week? It happened right after a conference call between Stevie, Devin Wenig, David Schlesinger and myself. Here's a recording I secretly made ( I know you're not supposed to do that without asking permission, but I figured it was important. I'm not very ethical.)

Me: We've got a bombshell here, Stevie. I'm about to push the button.

David: It's going to rock your world.

Me: Rock it.

Stevie: You can't do that. I'm worth $6 billion!

David: You got any insider tips? My UK apartment is under water.

Me: Yeah! I wanna buy some calls.

Me: I still can't believe it. I was an expat in Singapore. Now I'm back in Jersey. My wife makes me do all this work on the house. We sanded another floor this Sunday. And the value is dropping like a … Whatever. The bottomline is, Stevie: I need MONEY.

David: Lemmie spell that out for you, Stevie.

David: It's M O N E Y. That spells MONEY That's what we need.

Devin: Guys, please. Forget this money talk.

Devin: Stevie, you're a nice guy. We're nice guys. If you don't like the story, just ask David and Jack not to run it. It's their call. I've got nothing to do with Editorial.

Stevie: OK, I would really appreciate it if you guys don't put out a story that's supposedly going to rock my world

Me: Say ‘Please.'

Stevie: Please.

Me: Well, what do you think, David? I'd say: Kill it.

David: I wanna hear ‘please' one more time.

Stevie: Please.

David: Louder, please.

Stevie: PLEASE.

Me: OK, that settles it. It's a kill. We're gonna get some flak. But that's OK. Stevie's a nice guy.

Me: By the way, Stevie, my TDAmeritrade account is 39…

Devin: Guys, don't you have some sort of an ethics code in news? We're gonna have to take this offline. Bye Stevie.

Stevie: Bye guys.

You figure David and I would know better, right?

We do.

There conference call never happened.

But it describes perfectly what transpired if you believe some blogs and journalist talk.

Don't. It's a fantasy.

In the real world, we live by the trust principles. In the real world, we kick back stories for more reporting, balance or insight. In the real world, we don't run every story just because we wrote it.

Are we going to be right all the time? No. But we'll try very hard. And we'll learn from our mistakes. (and this was not a mistake, by the way).

Speaking of the real world, Matt Goldstein and Svea Herbst today shed more light on the insider trading saga that's hitting big Wall Street's names. They have been doing the heavy lifting on a story that's getting huge clicks. People love to read about … themselves. That's why we've been pushing financial industry coverage so hard. We want to be first there. We want to be exclusive. We want to be insightful.

That's why I've been liking Matt and Svea's stuff.

(When the Galleon scandal broke, I was having breakfast with a bunch of traders. They were all jogging their memories and checking e-mails to see if they had had any contact with the people involved. Talk about wanting to read about this stuff. They eat it up!).

Anyway, the latest development reported by Matt & Svea: Turns out there's another former staffer of $13 billion hedge fund SAC who got caught up in an insider trading probe.

Me: SAC? Doesn't that stand for Steven A Cohen? OMG! How did this happen? Sorry, I gotta call Stevie now.