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ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION

Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff

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In January 2013, a chap called Jonathan Moylan sent a single email that caused an AU$314m - £174m or $295m - dip in a coal company's value.

The email was a fake press release stating that Whitehaven Coal's bank, ANZ, had decided not to lend the mining firm the billion or so dollars needed to open a new pit.

Moylan's message was sent from a domain that riffed on ANZ Bank's name, used the bank's logo and included the name of an ANZ Bank PR person and a phone number. That number was Moylan's own, so when journalists called to confirm the details of the fake press release, Moylan simply told them it was all kosher.

Some media outlets didn't even bother calling him to check the facts and simply rewrote the fake press release before hitting the publish button.

Whitehaven Coal's market cap quickly dipped, until hurried backdowns exposed the fraud.

Moylan was eventually charged with stock market manipulation offenses carrying carrying fines of up to AU$1m and ten years in jail.

Moylan's actions did cause losses to some. Day traders may well have taken a bath on Whitehaven stock, while a court was told pension funds may also have lost out.

That Moylan pleaded guilty, expressed contrition and evinced no knowledge of the financial repercussions of his act, helped him to emerge from court today with a suspended 20-month sentence and $1,000 fine.

Justice Davies of the New South Wales Supreme Court rated Moylan's actions as mischievous, rather than malicious.

Moylan's is the second case this week in which Australians have been under fire for email naughtiness: workers at snail mail Australia Post were reinstated after being fired for emailing smut around the office. ®

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