Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Guardian and the US

As David Letterman would ask, is this anything?

I noted before about the Guardian reporting on stories from the US with wording suspiciously similiar to American newspapers or wire services. Something caught my eye again today. This time the subject is a securities fraud prosecution in California, and the Guardian article is very similar to the SEC legal brief itself. At first it was a similarity of wording I noticed, but then I realized that the logical structure of the two sources is almost identical in certain points. For convenience sake I put the relevant sections of the SEC document and the Guardian article below, respectively, with similar portions highlighted:

According to documents filed by the Commission in the federal court for the Northern District of California, Tri-West Investment Club ("Tri-West") and Alyn Waage, a Canadian citizen residing in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, may have raised more than $30 million from investors in the U.S. and abroad. The Commission's complaint alleges that Tri-West, through its website, solicits a minimum $1,000 investment in a "bank debenture trading program" secured by "certain key International `Prime Banks.'" Tri-West claims to guarantee a 120% annual rate of return with no risk to investors. In fact, according to the Commission, the securities offered by Tri-West are entirely fictitious; "bank debenture trading programs" and other purported "Prime Bank" instruments do not exist.

Tri-West's website further claims that the "bank debenture trading program" is managed by Haarlem Universal Corporation, purportedly "one of the largest and most prestigious trading companies in the world" with a thirty year history of generating high returns for investors.

According to the Commission, however, Haarlem is not a registered investment company, and has been in existence only since the scheme began in 1999.
The scheme ran from 1999 to September 2001, using a website to solicit investments promising guaranteed returns of 120% in a "bank debenture trading programme".

According to the site, which has been closed, the investment was managed by Haarlem Universal Corporation "one of the largest and most prestigious trading companies in the world" with a 30-year history of generating high returns for investors.

The company was not a registered investment company and has been in existence only since the scam began in 1999, the court heard.

The extracts themselves are unedited, i.e. the three paragraphs of the Guardian article are adjacent to each other as are the paragraphs from the SEC document. This is all obviously complicated by the fact that both the article and the SEC brief quote the same website, but that really only explains the direct quote about it being a large and prestigious company.

It seems clear to me that the author of the Guardian article used the SEC document as the basis for this article, but even then I am not certain it is plagiarism. The document is clearly a primary source and not another newssource, but it stills seem dubious to use the wording and logical structure of that document without acknowledgment and direct quotes. The author of the Guardian article, by the way, was David Teather, with whom I'm not familiar.

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