ABC: Wall Street Journal bulk circulation deals 'complex and circuitous' but compliant with rules

The Audit Bureau of Circulations has issued a statement following its inquiry into allegations the Wall Street Journal Europe was involved in a complex circulation-boosting scam.

It was reported in October that 31,000 out of 75,000 copies of the European edition of the WSJ were sold to companies in bulk and then distributed to students. It was also claimed that the WSJ effectively ended up buying some off the copies itself, after a sponsor pulled out, and that the deal included favourable editorial coverage.

WSJ Europe publiser Andrew Langhoff stepped down after an internal inquiry into the matter.

The ABC statement is far from a ringing endorsement of WSJE – but it says that it has found no evidence the arrangement broke its rules:

“The copies in question relate to a contract in force from May 2010 to April 2011 and were reported as Multiple Copy Subscription Sales at below 5 per cent of the basic annual subscription rate. Concerns were raised about whether the net price paid for these copies met the minimum requirement of 1c (Euro), as laid down in the Reporting Standards for International Publications.

“The payment arrangements underlying this contract were complex and at times circuitous but ABC has found no clear evidence that these copies should be regarded as not compliant with the Reporting Standards for International Publications.

“Given the questions raised ABC has initiated a review of the Reporting Standards governing circulation arrangements of this sort to ensure they fully reflect industry requirements and provide the requisite clarity for all concerned.”

The Wall Street Journal Europe said:

“We are pleased that the ABC UK has concluded its review of the subscription agreement with Executive Learning Partnership (ELP) and determined that The Wall Street Journal Europe’s circulation under that arrangement is valid. That has been our position from the outset.

“The Wall Street Journal Europe has been transparent throughout. The agreement with ELP was shared with the ABC UK at the time, and the relevant copies were previously validated.  We have already acknowledged publicly that while the copies were properly counted under ABC rules, the program itself was unnecessarily complex and not one we will replicate in the future.

“We appreciate the ABC UK putting aside the misleading and sensationalistic press coverage from some media outlets and conducting a thorough and dispassionate review.”

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