Another Press Subpoena

ANOTHER PRESS SUBPOENA….MarketWatch columnist Herb Greenberg is the latest journalist to be threatened with a subpoena:

The subpoena seeks “all” unpublished “communications,” including emails and phone records, between me and people and organizations I’ve quoted ? and at least one I’ve never quoted ? regarding five stocks. Never mind that I have never written about one of those companies. And never mind that the other four (yes, including Overstock) deserved every word I wrote ? and then some.

Dragging the press into this kind of investigation is hardly standard operating procedure for the SEC, whose job is to enforce securities laws. We’re not talking national security, here.

No, it’s not national security, and Greenberg isn’t James Risen or Dana Priest. But a reporter is a reporter, and if anonymous sources stop talking to them because they’re afraid they’ll be given up under threat of contempt or jail time, then anonymous sources will just start clamming up. And that’s bad for everyone. As Greenberg says:

If my unpublished communications aren’t safe from government eyes, then the tools of every business reporter in this country become fair game for any company that doesn’t like scrutiny and chooses to play the “conspiracy” card.

If that happens, sorry to say ? dear readers ? you will be on your own when it comes to policing public companies.

The SEC needs to back down. And if they don’t, Congress needs to start setting rules about what anonymous sources can and can’t count on when they talk to reporters.