Jonathan Moyler, the anti-coal activist who issued a fake press release that caused losses on Whitehaven Coal and its shareholders, had maintained that the bigger loser is not the stockholders of the mining firm but farmers who would be affected by the company's Maules Creek project in the Gunnedah Basin.
Tim Wimborne / Reuters
People look at market display indicators through the window of the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney
Mr Moylan, in an interview with World News Australia, said that while he is sorry for the stockholders' loss, he feels more for the farmers to be impacted by Whitehaven's venture which is supported by a $1.2 billion loan from ANZ Bank.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald, which quoted data obtained by Fairfax Media from Bloomberg and verified with the Australian Stock Exchange, showed that Mr Moyler was apparently correct in being less sorry for the shareholders who actually lost only $450,360, not $314 million as earlier reported.
It was AAP which first used Mr Moylan's hoax press release, published at 12:18 p.m. Within 23 minutes, 2.8 million Whitehaven shares were traded. By 12:39 p.m., AAP retracted the story, and Whitehaven called for a trading halt at 12:41 p.m.
By then, Whitehaven shares had tumbled down 8.8 per cent to $3.21 from $3.52 prior to AAP's story publication.
The Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that the difference between $3.52 and the price of each share traded during the period of market misinformation is the maximum potential loss due to the fake press release by Mr Moylan. However, media reported on the difference in Whitehaven's market capitalisation between $3.52 and $3.21 which amounts to $314 million.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission is investigating Mr Moylan, who faces a jail term of up to 10 years and a hefty fine, if proven guilty of future charges that the regulator and Whitehaven could file against the activist.
Mr Moylan is supported by other green groups such as Quit Coal which sought more backing for their beleaguered colleague.
"We think it was an important act of civil disobedience and the costs incurred by day traders are insignificant when you consider the cost of cleaning up climate disasters and the cost to the community of the pollution and the bushfires we've seen in the last few years," The Herald Sun quoted Quit Coal spokeswoman Chloe Aldenhoven.
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