Whitehaven Coal Hoax

On the 7th January 2013, a fake press release forced Whitehaven Coal into a trading halt after $314 million was wiped off the company’s value.

The fake release, produced by activist group Font Line Action on Coal, purported to be from ANZ and claimed the bank had withdrawn a recent $1.2 billion loan to help develop the Maules Creek project. The hoax prompted a sharp sell off on Whitehaven stock, with shares down almost 9 per cent to $3.21 shortly after midday. As news of the hoax circulated the stock slowly gained ground and reached $3.32, down from $3.52, before trading was halted.

The fake release suggested ANZ had withdrawn the loan because of “volatility in the global coal market, expected cost blow-outs and ANZ’s corporate responsibility policy.”ANZ policy dictates funds are not to be lent to projects that will have a negative social or environmental impact.“We want our customers to be assured that we will not be investing in coal projects that cause significant dislocation of farmers, unacceptable damage to the environment, or social conflict,” the false statement said.

Front Line Action on Coal claimed responsibility for the hoax and said the release was made in order to protest the development of the Maules Creek Coal project.

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