ASIC gets the message ... and leaves one for Whitehaven hoaxster

9 Jan 2013 | Sydney Morning Herald
by PETER KER with Bloomberg
THE task of contacting the man whose hoax wiped $314 million temporarily off the value of Whitehaven Coal was proving easier for media than the corporate regulator on Tuesday, before what is expected to be a legal stoush over the incident.

Anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan remained at his bush camp in NSW on Tuesday, as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission continued its inquiries into his market-shifting hoax.

Mr Moylan said ASIC had left a message on his phone but he was seeking legal advice before speaking with the regulator. He said he was not hiding and regulators knew where to find him after the massive publicity that his stunt had received.

"I will stay where I've been for the last 157 days but, if anyone wants to come and find me, they know where I am," he said. "I am quite happy to take responsibility."

That could have serious ramifications for Mr Moylan, given that ASIC has confirmed its inquiries are focusing on section 1041E of the Corporations Act. The provision can lead to criminal charges and legal experts have predicted that ASIC will make an example of this case.

Regulators have been urged to toughen up on such hoaxes, given that similar events have struck retailer David Jones and Macmahon Holdings in recent months.

The hoax involved a fake press release from ANZ and falsely claimed that the bank had cancelled a recent $1.2 billion loan that was arranged for Whitehaven.

The loan was to help Whitehaven build a new coalmine at Maules Creek, close to Mr Moylan's protest camp.

The stunt led the Whitehaven share price to fall by almost 9 per cent before recovering.

Struggling coal baron Nathan Tinkler is the biggest shareholder in Whitehaven and Mr Moylan urged him to divest his coal shares.

The managing director of Whitehaven, Tony Haggarty, said Whitehaven would be better off if large institutions took over Mr Tinkler's stake.

"If he were to sell his shares to the market, if that 20 per cent were held by broad-based institutional shareholders, that would be ideal," he told Bloomberg.

He said Whitehaven would look to sell a portion of the Maules Creek mine to an offtake partner.

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