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Private equity firms 'concerned' by Bloomberg snoop

May 13, 2013: 11:24 AM ET

terminalPrivate equity wants more details.

FORTUNE -- Several private equity firms are "concerned" that Bloomberg journalists may have accessed sensitive firm information, following recent snooping revelations.

Multiple sources say that they are trying to get more information about what terminal user data was available  to Bloomberg editorial, particularly if it led to M&A deal leaks. So far, none of them report having been proactively contacted by Bloomberg with more specifics or an apology.

Bloomberg editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler wrote early this morning that the access "error is inexcusable," but also suggested that the scandal is being overblown:

"Now let's also be clear what our reporters had access to. First, they could see a user's login history and when a login was created. Second, they could see high-level types of user functions on an aggregated basis, with no ability to look into specific security information. This is akin to being able to see how many times someone used Microsoft Word vs. Excel. And, finally, they could see information about help desk inquiries...

At no time did reporters have access to trading, portfolio, monitor, blotter or other related systems. Nor did they have access to clients' messages to one another. They couldn't see the stories that clients were reading or the securities clients might be looking at."

But not everyone is satisfied.

"Bloomberg is now asking us to trust them, to just take their word that their reporters couldn't see the specific stories that our investment team was reading or searching for," says a source at a private equity firm with more than 10 Bloomberg terminals. "I hope that's true, but we're trying to figure out our options for making sure it is."

Another private equity executive expressed worries over the help desk inquiries. "Most of our investors are pretty savvy on Bloomberg boxes, and we have people here who can answer questions, but that doesn't mean someone doesn't sometimes call the help desk. And what if they said 'I'm looking at something about Company Y, and there seems to be a glitch?' Or whatever? Did reporters see that, which may tell them we have interest in Company Y, or in its competitors? That's probably a worst-case scenario"

None of the private equity sources, however, suggested any plans to give up their Bloomberg terminals. At least not yet...

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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