A fake press release forced Nathan Tinkler's Whitehaven Coal into a trading halt today 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fake release, produced by activist group Font Line Action on Coal, purported to be from ANZ and claimed the bank had withdrawn a recent $1.2 billion loan to help develop the Maules Creek project.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.
In a statement Whitehaven said there was “no substance” to the hoax and ANZ had also confirmed the release was fake.
In its own statement ANZ said it remained “fully supportive of Whitehaven Coal”.
According to Fairfax Media the fake release suggested ANZ had withdrawn the loan because of “volatility in the global coal market, expected cost blow-outs and ANZ's corporate responsibility policy.”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.
"ANZ is currently undertaking a review of coal and gas investments on productive agricultural lands and areas of high biodiversity.”
According to Business Spectator 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.
"ANZ customers have a right to know that their money is being invested in a project which will force farmers off their land and destroy 1,360 hectares of critically endangered koala habitat," the protest group said.
"We are determined to continue our campaign on ANZ Bank until the bank shifts its investments to ethical investments."
Whitehaven shares have since emerged from a trading halt but it's unclear whether Front Line could be liable for any market losses incurred by the company.