LONDON — The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday that it had seen e-mails and documents showing that the Wall Street Journal funneled money through third parties to a company that was buying up copies of the Journal and boosting its European circulation.
The Guardian did not make the e-mails and documents public but, if its description is accurate, the Journal was effectively buying its own papers and inflating its circulation figures — something that could allow it to charge advertisers extra.
In a statement to the Associated Press, the Journal slammed the story as "replete with untruths and malign interpretations."
The Guardian said that the Journal asked intermediaries to make payments to the Netherlands-based Executive Learning Partnership, which at the time was buying thousands of copies of the Journal every day at deeply discounted prices.
Discounted sales are not unusual in the newspaper business, and the Guardian and the Journal both say that the purchases by ELP were approved by the Britain's circulation watchdog.
However, the Guardian alleges that the Journal was indirectly sponsoring the purchase of its own papers by urging third parties to pay ELP.
The Guardian also said that the Journal promised to publish three stories based on ELP research and that two such stories were then published without any warning that the articles were the product of a business deal.