New rules will stop repeat of shares scam, say editors

By Dominic Ponsford

Leading financial journalists believe that strict rules now in place
rule out a repetition of the Daily Mirror insider share dealing scandal
which has left ex-columnists James Hipwell and Anil Bhoyrul facing
possible prison terms.

Former BBC business editor Jeff Randall, now editor-at-large at The
Daily Telegraph, said: “I don’t think we will see another City Slickers
case because you won’t see a newspaper management be so casual about
the improper activities of its journalists.”

Hipwell and Bhoyrul were convicted last Wednesday of criminally
making £41,000 and £17,000 respectively by buying, tipping and then
selling shares between August 1999 and February 2000. They face up to
seven years in jail at sentencing on 10 January.

When asked if
they deserve to be punished Randall said: “When I was at the Sunday
Business they pursued me relentlessly with a series of stories about me
that were completely untrue, and the thing that irritated me was they
knew the stories were untrue – they were simply making them up.

“There’s
a part of me that’s tempted to sit here and gloat, but frankly, looking
at them now, they are such pathetic figures, they are so obviously
little boys out of their depth that I have no interest in pushing them
further under.”

Other leading financial editors have revealed
that a repetition of the Slickers scandal is unlikely because most
British national newspapers forbid business journalists from holding
any shares in individual companies.

Times business editor Patience Wheatcroft explained that her paper had a long-established register of journalists’

shareholdings
which she has access to and said she ensures no-one writes about
anything that they could have a possible interest in.

She said: “Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to hold shares at all in my position.”

On
the subject of the Slickers case, she said: “I think what they did has
deeply harmed the reputation of financial journalism and they deserve
to be punished. They were in a position of trust.”

Former Daily
Express business editor and now editor of City AM, David Parsley, said
there was a firm rule on his newspaper that no-one owns any shares in
individual companies.

At Trinity Mirror, the rules brought in
following the original Slickers scandal forbid any national title
editor, deputy editor or financial journalist from owning shares.

Former
Sunday Times business editor, now deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph,
Will Lewis, said: “We keep a register of shares and investments held by
members of staff and people notify me of any changes to their
shareholding.

The same was true at The Sunday Times and there was
a system in place at the FT. Most people in a senior editorial position
would find it pretty difficult to have any individual shareholdings at
all.”

New criticisms
MORGAN: ‘NOTHING NEW ON ME IN TRIAL’

New criticisms of former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan emerged as
a result of the eightweek City Slickers trial. These include the
suggestion that Trinity Mirror staff were encouraged to lie as part of
a cover-up (Press Gazette 18 November).

It also emerged during
the trial that Morgan and his wife bought £67,000 worth of Viglen
shares the day before they were tipped in the paper, rather than the
£20,000 as cited in the Press Complaints Commission inquiry into the
affair (Press Gazette 25 November).

In response to these
criticisms Morgan said: “Nothing new emerged from the trial that had
not already emerged during the DTI’s four-year investigation.

“The
exact number of shares I bought in Viglen was known to Trinity Mirror
within a few hours of the Telegraph story first appearing back in
February 2000. And [Viglen PR man] Nick Hewer’s claim that I asked him
to lie was put to me during my DTI interviews and vigorously denied.

“I
was not able to refute any of the many and varied claims against me in
court because I was not called as a witness. But if I had been then I
would have reiterated what I have said all along – I did not know the
Slickers were going to tip Viglen the next day when I bought those
shares.”

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