Whitehaven prankster could face fines, jail time

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission is set to investigate whether an activist broke the law yesterday after a fake media statement shaved around $300 million from Whitehaven Coal stocks.

ASIC said it would investigate whether the hoax represented a breach of the Corporations Act on false or misleading statements.

The maximum sentence for individuals guilty of a breach is 10 years in jail with fines up to $495,000. Organisations guilty of the same offence can face fines up to $4.6 million.

Along with the ASIC investigation Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said the company would launch its own inquiry, which could result in legal action.

"The integrity of the information provided to the public regarding Whitehaven goes to the heart of the market's integrity and directly effects the price of Whitehaven shares, as well as our many shareholders,” he said.

"Whitehaven is also investigating any legal action that may be available to it and its shareholders."

The fake release, produced by protest group Front Line Action on Coal, purported to be from ANZ and claimed the bank had withdrawn a recent $1.2 billion loan to help develop the Maules Creek project.

Front Line spokesperson Jonathon Moylan initially posed as an ANZ official when communicating with journalists but later took responsibility for the prank.

You can read more about how the hoax unfolded yesterday here.

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