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Breakingviews Columnist Resigns During Share-Dealing Investigation

A columnist for the Reuters (NYSE: TRI) Breakingviews comment website has resigned while multiple breaches of its code of conduct on disclosure of financial interests and cases involving other commentators are being investigated, Thomson Reuters admitted today.

Neil Collins has resigned after it emerged he had failed to declare that he owned shares in a number of companies he was writing about, including BP, Marks & Spencer, Yell and Diageo. Thomson Reuters said it had launched an internal investigation, but there was no evidence Collins was “abusing his position for financial gain”.

Reuters today put out a financial newswire story about the columnist’s resignation and the ongoing investigation. It also refiled a number of columns by Collins and two other Breakingviews journalists, Neil Unmack and Margaret Doyle, going back to February last year, “to add disclaimer for author’s personal investment”. Unmack and Doyle remain in their jobs, Thomson Reuters confirmed.

The Reuters code of conduct forbids journalists from writing about shares they own unless they notify their interest to their manager and from dealing in shares about which they have written recently or intend to write in the near future.

David Schlesinger, Reuters’ editor-in-chief, told staff in an internal note today that several other cases had come to light as a result of questioning Reuters Breakingviews staff where disclosures to readers or managers could or should have been made.

“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,” said Schlesinger.

He added that Collins wrote commentary about companies in which he had a financial interest and made trades shortly afterwards. The investigation is continuing, Scheslinger added.

In an email sent by Collins to Hugo Dixon, the co-founder and global editor of Reuters Breakingviews, the financial commentator admitted that he is “saddened and embarassed” at the code of conduct breaches, but insisted he had not abused his position.

Reuters said it had added these disclaimers to a total of 53 online columns by the three journalists dating back to February 2009

This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.