Reuters Accused of Illegally Obtaining Information

A Swedish company says the news service got information from a Web page that wasn't designed for public access.

by / October 29, 2002
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- A small Swedish IT company Monday filed criminal charges against news service Reuters PLC for obtaining an earnings report from a Web page it considered private.

Intentia International asked Sweden's National Criminal Investigation Department to investigate whether Reuters PLC broke the law by retrieving parts of Intentia's third-quarter report from a Web page before Intentia released it publicly.

Reuters published Intentia's report on Oct. 24 after it became available through Intentia's Web site. The report was available to anyone who typed the correct Web address. But Thomas Ahlerup, a spokesman for the company, said the Web page was not available through normal channels on the site.

He said Intentia's legal advisers consider Reuter's action to be an infringement of laws that govern information technology property.

Reuters' Nordic bureau chief in Stockholm, Jonathan Lynn, said in a statement that the company was surprised by Intentia's stance. Reuters published information on the results "after they had been accessible over the Internet."

A release from Reuter's London headquarters said "there was no substance to the allegations that it made an illegal entry to Intentia's IT systems."

Last week, Reuters published an earnings report from banking group Nordea AB ahead of the scheduled release. Nordea has acknowledged that parts of the report were mistakenly put on its Web site.

Ahlerup said that if authorities deem that Reuters retrieved the information from a public part of the Web site, it could set an important precedent, making anything on a company's Web server public information, he said.

"We want the authorities to test what can be considered to be private or public," Ahlerup said.

Ahlerup wouldn't comment on whether the company had made market-sensitive information available before it was released.

Swedish law requires listed companies to disclose information to the Stockholm bourse as well as at least two news agencies and three newspapers.

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