By Fitzgerald, Mark
Editor & Publisher , Vol. 124, No. 34
Procter & Gamble's hunt for news leak flops; police search of Wall Street Journal reporter's phone records inconclusive
Procter & Gamble's police-assisted dragnet for the source of news leaks has turned up empty, the Cincinnati-based company concedes.
In an Aug. 18 "Dear Dick" letter to Dow Jones Co. assistant general counsel Richard J. Tofel, P&G vice president and general counsel James J. Johnson indicated that the hunt for leaks conducted by the Cincinnati Police Department's fraud squad had ended.
"As far as we are concerned, the criminal action is over," Johnson wrote. "We understand the investigations did not turn up sufficient information to prosecute. We are not pursuing any criminal actions on this."
Johnson's letter capped a week in which it was revealed that Cincinnati police, acting on a complaint from P&G, obtained telephone records of calls made to and from Wall Street Journal reporter Alecia Swasy's Pittsburgh home and office. Swasy covers P&G from the Journal's Pittsburgh bureau.
P&G said at the time it had asked police help in finding the person or persons who had leaked confidential material amounting to trade secrets.
The Journal speculated in its stories that P&G was looking for the unnamed sources behind two articles in June.
One of those articles reported on the supposedly forced resignation of the head of P&G's troubled food and beverage division. The other article reported that some big brands in that division -- such as Citrus Hill orange juice and Crisco shortening -- were up for sale.
The furor the P&G and police actions raised among journalists and First Amendment activists intensified in the days that followed as the wide-reaching scope of the telephone record search became apparent.
According to the subpoena from the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court authorizing the phone record search, Cincinnati Bell was ordered to identify "all 513 area code numbers" that connected to Swasy's home or office between March 1 and June 15, 1991.
According to the Journal, which revealed the subpoena's scope in an Aug. …