Pssst: Want a Copy of BusinessWeek?

Federal authorities make arrests in an alleged scheme to get early access to BusinessWeek - but only one paper noticed it's not that first time this has happened.

In recent years, BusinessWeek, like many of its rivals, has slogged through a tough environment for business magazines in the wake of the meltdown. This past December, for instance, executives of the McGraw-Hill-owned magazine shuttered its print editions in Europe and Asia in favor of revamped Web sites.

That said, BusinessWeek’s print edition appears to have maintained its popularity in recent years with at least one group of longtime devotees — crooked investment bankers.

Yesterday, federal authorities made several arrests in a wide-ranging case of insider trading. The allegations, in part, revolved around a supposed scheme to gain illegal, early access to the print edition of BusinessWeek.

“The Feds yesterday arrested two young Wall Streeters and a mole at a BusinessWeek print shop for running a trans-Atlantic insider trading scam that enlisted investment bank colleagues and a stripper to rack up $6.7 million in ill-gotten gains,” the New York Post reported today. “Authorities said Goldman Sachs analyst Eugene Plotkin, 26, Merrill Lynch banker Stanislav Shpigelman, 23, and a former colleague plotted to pilfer the markets using information about pending mergers leaked by the young banker and buying stocks based on tips gleaned from stolen prepublication copies of BusinessWeek’s ‘Inside Wall Street’ column.”

Elsewhere, various media outlets were passing along the glossy-paged details of the conspiracy.

“The three men…later recruited two employees who worked at a private printing plant in Hartford, Wis., where BusinessWeek magazine is printed,” investigators told the New York Times.

“The indictment alleges they recruited two people to apply for jobs at the Hartford, Wisc., plant where the magazine is printed and to then pass on the names of the stocks that would be mentioned favorably,” reported the Washington Post.

While most reporters today treated the targeting of BusinessWeek as novel bit of fraud, reporters at the Wall Street Journal noticed that this was hardly the first time that a bunch of Wall Street cheats had conspired to get their paws on early copies of the magazine.

“This is the third time a criminal case has been brought involving unpublished information from the BusinessWeek column,” reported the Journal. “In a late-1980s case, a broker allegedly bribed a printing-press employee to get the BusinessWeek column hours before it was available to the public. Another investor was convicted in 1999 of trading on the advance information from the column obtained by bribing a newsstand operator.”

Not once. Not twice. Three times! For those keeping score at home, that’s a hat trick for the lucky guy at the SEC in charge of keeping an eye on the BusinessWeek printing presses.

All of which would seem to suggest that, in the future, Wall Street warriors looking for some hot magazine copy would be well advised to steer clear of BusinessWeek — and, perhaps, stick to renewing their subscriptions to Stuff.

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Felix Gillette writes about the media for The New York Observer.