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The BBC's Nick Higham
"A highly critical judgement"
 real 28k

Lord Wakeham, Press Complaints Commission Chairman
"We have rebuked both the editor and the journalists concerned"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Mirror rapped over shares scandal

Piers Morgan: Actions fell short of industry standards
Mirror editor Piers Morgan breached the newspaper industry's code of practice in the recent share dealing scandal, the Press Complaints Commission has ruled.

The PCC said Morgan had fallen short of the high professional standards demanded by the code.

The commission's report also found against journalists Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell, who had written and edited the paper's City Slickers column.

The PCC launched its inquiry into share dealing by journalists at The Mirror after it emerged that a number of staff had bought shares tipped in the City Slickers column.

'Flagrant breaches'

"In view of the unsatisfactory state of affairs revealed by this episode, the commission has decided to refer the terms of this adjudication to the chief executive of Trinity Mirror," it stated.

A lot of people knew what we were going to tip, it was that kind of atmosphere.

Former City Slicker Anil Bhoyrul

The PCC concluded Mr Bhoyrul and James Hipwell had "engaged in flagrant, multiple breaches of the code over a sustained period time".

However it made no finding against Tina Weaver, deputy editor of The Mirror, who had also been implicated in the affair.

The code of practice prohibits journalists from:

  • Making personal gain out of financial information before it is published

  • Writing about shares which they own without informing their editor

  • Buying or selling shares about which they have written recently or intend to write about in the near future.

Mr Bhoyrul and Mr Hipwell had personally profited by buying shares then tipping them in their pages, sending the price rocketing, and then selling the shares at a profit, the PCC said.

Mr Hipwell had done this on 25 occasions, Mr Bhoyrul on 16.

The City Slickers claimed colleagues knew what they would be tipping

The commission said Mr Morgan had known about Mr Hipwell's trading in 1999 and while he had warned the journalist verbally, he did not do enough to stop it happening again.

But The Mirror editor later tried share dealing himself.

He bought shares in Wiggins Group as well as 20,000 worth of Viglen Technology shares on January 17, the day before the City Slickers page tipped the company.

Shares in Viglen jumped when the report was published, boosting Mr Morgan's paper fortune.

Open atmosphere

Although Mr Bhoyrul initially backed his editor's claim that it was a coincidence, the former City Slicker later changed his tune.

He said Mr Morgan knew the shares would be tipped.

He told the BBC it would be absolute nonsense to say no-one else was aware which shares he was going to recommend until the first edition of the paper appeared.

"I think a lot of people knew what we were going to tip, it was that kind of atmosphere, it was very, very open," he said.

The PCC said Mr Bhoyrul's different versions made it impossible to rely on his evidence, but decided Mr Morgan was already in breach of the code.

It said Mr Morgan did not act decisively when he became aware of the story and did not seek to sell the shares at no profit.

The PCC also ruled that Mr Morgan had been in technical breach of the code over his dealing in shares in Wiggins Group.

Mr Morgan, who was cleared by an internal inquiry by the newspaper's owners Trinity Mirror, has since sold the Viglen shares and promised to give his profits to charity.

In a joint statement the newspaper group and Mr Morgan, who has denied Bhoyrul's allegations, said they accepted the commission's findings and regretted that the editor had not enforced the code's provisions on financial journalism.

"I remain strongly committed to the code and to its observation," said Mr Morgan.

He said the paper had implemented firm controls since the scandal broke.

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