An economist from the Bureau of Labor Statistics corresponded on data related to a key U.S. inflation gauge with major Wall Street firms like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BlackRock Inc., raising questions about equitable access to economic information.

The BLS economist answered numerous inquiries about details within the consumer price index in recent months, mostly related to computations in key categories within shelter as well as used cars, according to records requested by Bloomberg.

The back and forth between the financial firms and the economist, who has been with the BLS for many years, was first reported by the New York Times. He sent several emails to a broader group, which he called “my super users” in one of the emails obtained by Bloomberg. The BLS has said it doesn’t maintain a list of “super users.”

In mid-February, one user asked if they could be added to the "super user email list," to which the BLS economist replied minutes later, “Yes I can add you to the list.”

While the recipients’ names were redacted from the request, email signature details or disclosures from their employers were visible in some of the provided records.

In addition to BlackRock and JPMorgan, other banks, hedge funds and research firms — Brevan Howard, Millennium Capital Partners LLP, Citadel, Moore Capital Management, High Frequency Economics, Nomura Securities International and BNP Paribas — appeared in the exchanges and declined to comment. Pharo Management and Wolfe Research also came up in the emails but didn’t provide comment.

Email ‘Mistake’

Economists have been clamoring to find out more about these “super users” after the BLS staffer addressed an email to those people in February, suggesting that a change to the weights of underlying data within a key measure of rental inflation was behind its surge in January’s CPI. The BLS told recipients to disregard its contents, and subsequently tried to clear the confusion with a notice on its website. The agency also said that the email was “a mistake.”

The latest revelation is likely to prompt a deeper look at the dissemination of economic information that has implications for how major assets trade as well as Federal Reserve policy. The BLS encourages people to ask questions and makes its staff available to engage with the public, but they strive to create equal access to information for everyone, said Emily Liddel, associate commissioner for publications and special studies at the BLS.

“Obviously this has been an embarrassment for the agency,” Liddel said. “The public puts a lot of trust in us to be fair, and our data providers put a lot of trust in us for the data to be secure. It’s our goal to repair that trust.”

The BLS economist often pointed users to relevant links on the agency’s website. But in at least one case, he shared information that wasn’t publicly available at the time, related to the calculation for the used cars index within the CPI.

Liddel said it is “still under review” whether the employee shared other non-public information, and that the issues appear to be isolated to this one staffer. He is not answering incoming user questions at this time, she said.

The BLS economist did not respond to a message seeking comment.