Fake press release causes coal company to lose $300 million - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Fake press release costs company $300 million in one day

A member of the activist group, Front Line Action On Coal, claimed responsibility for the hoax. (Source: Facebook/Front Line Action On Coal) A member of the activist group, Front Line Action On Coal, claimed responsibility for the hoax. (Source: Facebook/Front Line Action On Coal)

(RNN) - A 24-year-old environmental activist put out a fake press release that said an Australian coal company was denied a loan from a bank.

The result: the company immediately lost more than $300 million.

Jonathan Moylan, member of an anti-coal group called, "Frontline Action on Coal," bought a domain name with email address that resembled that of ANZ, one of Australia's largest banks, and sent out a fake press release to the media stating that the bank had denied a loan to Whitehaven Coal for a new mining project.

The fake press release said: "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 news quickly spread and the price of Whitehaven Coal's shares plummeted by almost 9 percent as investors sold off their shares. The company is reported to have lost more than $300 million and its largest shareholder, Nathan Tinkler, may have lost more than $50 million.

The hoax was eventually uncovered, but not before the damage had already been done. And when the media discovered who was behind the ruse, Moylan was defiant.

"I made the announcement that ANZ should have made," Moylan said, according to The Australian.

"The future of our farmlands, our forests, our health, our climate - these are the biggest threats humanity faces and they are far more important than concerns over liability," he said, reported the BBC.

Although Moylan will likely face legal action as a result of the hoax, he has the support of at least one politician.

"Congrats to Jonathan Moylan, Frontline Action on Coal, for exposing ANZ investment in coal mines," tweeted Sen. Lee Rhiannon, a member of Australia's Greens Party.

However, not everyone is happy with Moylan's actions. With so much money being lost, many small investors also took a financial hit.

On Front Line Action on Coal's Facebook page, a visitor criticized the group for not thinking about the small-time investors who may have lost money.

But Front Line responded: "We feel so sorry for the Leard State Forest and the farming community and those that live along the rail line to Newcastle ... If these mines get the go ahead they will loses sooo much more than Money!!!"

Several media outlets have reported that Moylan was visited by authorities and had his laptop and cell phone seized.

ANZ and Whitehaven Coal have not yet said if they will press charges.

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