Bloomberg News is, in a manner of speaking, an afterthought developed to help the company sell subscriptions to data terminals, which make up 85 percent of the firm's revenue, The New York Times reported Monday.
When the news division began in the 1990s, reporters frequently accompanied sales personnel on their rounds, the Times said.
With the two divisions that closely linked, "Some reporters have used the so-called terminal to obtain, as The Washington Post reported, 'mundane' facts such as logon information," editor in chief Matthew Winkler said in an editorial that appeared online late Sunday.
"The recent complaints relate to practices that are almost as old as Bloomberg News," Winkler said about the news gathering practice that has made headlines for what is considered a breach of client privacy.
Winkler, who is the author of "The Bloomberg Way: A Guide for Reporters and Editors," a handbook on reporting ethics, apologized for the practice, which he called "inexcusable."
Former employees of the company, the Times reported, have said reporters were trained on how to use the terminals to look for subscriber data.
The practice came to the surface recently after Goldman Sachs complained that a reporter, inquiring about the status of one of the bank's executives, said that the executive had not logged on to his Bloomberg terminal recently.
A similar incident occurred at JPMorgan Chase last year, the Times said.
Bloomberg has gone into damage control. Winkler apologized for the practice that involves a company with 2,400 reporters on its staff.
Bloomberg L.P. Chief Executive Officer Daniel Doctoroff last week called the practice a "mistake" and said it would not happen again.
Doctoroff also said the reporters could only access limited information through the subscriber data. They could not, for example, learn about market activity. They could, however, look through chats between Bloomberg clients and terminal sales personnel.
There are 315,000 terminal subscriptions, which provided Bloomberg with the bulk of its $7.9 billion in revenue in 2012, the Times said.