When the news broke that squeaky clean KPMG hero Phil Mickelson might be tied to an insider trading scandal, foamy-mouthed editors (yours truly included) went rabid over the salacious story. As it turns out, the "anonymous sources" that tipped off the Times were flat out wrong.
The first embarrassing trip for the Times came on May 31, as the paper alleged in a Page One story that a federal insider trading investigation was “examining” golfer Phil Mickelson’s “well-timed trades” in Clorox stock, according to “people briefed on the investigation.” On June 11, the Times rowed the story back — citing anonymous sources again, namely “four people briefed on the matter” — calling the original story about Mickelson’s role “overstated.” Mickelson did not, the paper reported, trade shares of Clorox.
Heads bowed, the new Times article explained the error: “The overstated scope of the investigation came from information provided to the Times by other people briefed on the matter who have since acknowledged making a mistake.”
Gotta love the wording. The people briefed made a mistake, not the Times for relying on anonymous sources.
So not only is it doubtful Lefty engaged in insider trading of Clorox shares, it's impossible. By the time the correction appeared, it was too late. Mickelson's good name had already been sullied and everyone had moved on to the next car crash.
Oddly, the Times (via DealBook) did not find it appropriate to reveal its sources in its correction, even though anonymity for no real reason was what forced the correction in the first place:
The new details, provided in the interviews with the people briefed on the matter, indicate that Mr. Mickelson’s ties to the investigation are weaker than previously reported. The details may also raise questions about the government’s decision to deploy what appear to be unusually aggressive tactics in the investigation, particularly when the F.B.I. agents publicly approached Mr. Mickelson even though he is known to have a lawyer and a sports agent.
There is still an investigation, according to — wait for it — people briefed on the matter.
The F.B.I., federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the S.E.C. continue to investigate well-timed trades made by Mr. Mickelson and Mr. Walters in shares of Dean Foods in the summer of 2012, the people briefed on the matter said.
Who are these people briefed on the matter? Are they the same clowns who got it wrong the first time? NSA spies listening in on Phil's phone calls? Tipsters that heard from a guy who heard from a guy who heard from a guy?
Can we believe anything they say? And shouldn't we, at the very least, find out who they are?
AnonyWatch: When Unnamed Sources Are Flat Wrong [NYT Public Editor's Journal]