Audit Notes: NYO on an NYT Plagiarism Problem; Three Good Ones in the WSJ; plus Wolf

—John Koblin at the Observer broke an important story about apparent plagiarism involving Times business staffer Zachery Kouwes. A Times’s editor’s note says the matter goes beyond the alleged plagiarism from a WSJ Madoff story and is not yet closed.

A subsequent search by The Times found other cases of extensive overlap between passages in Mr. Kouwe’s articles and other news organizations’. (The search did not turn up any indications that the articles were inaccurate.)

Copying language directly from other news organizations without providing attribution — even if the facts are independently verified — is a serious violation of Times policy and basic journalistic standards. It should not have occurred. The matter remains under investigation by The Times, which will take appropriate action consistent with our standards to protect the integrity of our journalism.

Jeff Bercovici at Daily Finance reports Kouwe has been suspended. (h/t Romenesko, HuffPo.)

—The WSJ weighs in with a smart story on an important lawsuit brought by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle against Wall Street firms for selling defective mortgage-backed securities. The bank wants the Street to buy back what it sold. The delinquency numbers of the loans underlying the bonds are really staggering:

Analysts say the lawsuits are being closely followed by other investors. “Other similarly placed investors would take note, both in the U.S. and outside,” said Bert Ely, a banking consultant based in Alexandria, Va. A ruling against the firms would “start a stampede” by other investors, said Christopher Whalen, managing director for Institutional Risk Analytics.

Seattle is suing the former Bear Stearns Cos., which was bought by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. in 2008, to return $719 million in securities it bought between March 2006 and September 2007. That represents the largest of the 11 lawsuits brought by the home-loan bank.

The foreclosure rates on the home loans underlying the bonds run as high as 25%, according to the suits. A J.P. Morgan spokesman declined to comment.

Securities sold to the Seattle bank by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. also showed dismal performance, with securities that had foreclosure rates as high as 19.8% and 17%, respectively. Representatives of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

The foreclosure rates on loans underlying securities Seattle purchased from Countrywide Financial Corp., now a part of Bank of America Corp., were lower, ranging from 2.7% to 10.3%. A Bank of America representative declined to comment.

Great job keeping up with that.

—The Journal’s James R. Hagerty takes an interesting if discouraging look at two studies that point to more foreclosure waves and more downward pressure on housing. Calculated Risk adds good analysis.

—The Journal also had a good investigation by two of our favorites, Mark Maremont and Leslie Scism, on a creepy scheme in which investors recruit the terminally ill to take advantage loopholes in insurers’ annuities contracts.

Given these, plus the fact that the Times plagiarism problem started with a letter from the WSJ’s top editor Robert Thomson to his counterpart at the Times, Bill Keller, I think it’s fair to say the day went to the Journal, wouldn’t you?

—Everybody should read Martin Wolf without me saying so, but he’s especially good today on how to deal with deficits in a time of economic crisis. He includes a good takedown of Niall Ferguson, no extra charge.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.