Watchdog not happy over Telstra April Fools prank

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1288-telstra It was a simple April Fools Day prank that sent Telstra share prices up to 5 percent. However, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission – known to not have a sense of humour – is now investigating how the spoof article managed to whip up such a frenzy.

The article, published in Computerworld, said that Telstra was going to split into two divisions – retail and wholesale divisions – in its bid to secure the national broadband contract that was to be awarded next week. However, while it was April 1 here; it was March 31 in the US. It has been reported that it also failed to contain a disclaimer.

Telstra is known to be against separation; however, the article quoted an independent analyst – who was in on the prank – to make it sound legitimate.

The article is no longer up on the website.

Telstra shares rose to $3.25 at 2pm, but fell later in the day to close at $3.09. The hoax managed to make Telstra’s market value up by $1.9 billion, but was now $1.5 billion less.

The watchdog, which as waged a war against rumour-mongering, has been said to be making inquiries to determine what happened on the day. However, an ASIC spokesperson has declined to comment on any confirmation on the investigation. This also comes after ASIC’s high-profile investigation into rumour-mongering, or known as “rumourtrage”, where stockbrokers spread false or misleading information to manipulate the stock.

According to The Australian, a Sydney stockbroker was banned for 18 months for spreading false information about the Macquarie Group. The offence can attract heavy fines or even possible jail time.

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