ASIC gets the message . . . and leaves one for Whitehaven's hoaxer
THE task of contacting the man whose hoax temporarily wiped $314 million off the value of Whitehaven Coal is proving easier for news media than the corporate regulator ahead of what is expected to be legal action over the incident.
Anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan remained at his bush camp in New South Wales 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. By Tuesday evening he had picked a lawyer to advise him, but the relationship remained informal given that no charge or indictment had been levelled against him.
Mr Moylan said he was not hiding, and that regulators knew where to find him after the widespread 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. I am not hiding, I am quite happy to take responsibility," he said.
Taking responsibility could have serious ramifications for Mr Moylan, given that ASIC has confirmed its inquiries are focusing on section 1041E of the Corporations Act.
That provision can lead to criminal charges, and several legal experts - including Allion Legal's Simon Rear - have predicted that ASIC will make an example of this case.
Others have urged regulators to toughen up on such hoaxes, given that similar events have struck retailer David Jones and Macmahon Holdings in recent months.
ASIC declined to comment beyond the statements issued on Monday, when it expressed a strong desire to speak with those involved in the hoax.
The hoax involved a fake press release from ANZ that falsely claimed that the bank had cancelled a recent $1.2 billion loan that was arranged for Whitehaven.
The loan was designed to help Whitehaven build a new coalmine at Maules Creek, close to where Mr Moylan's protest camp has stood for almost 160 days now.
The stunt was compounded by some media reports, and caused the Whitehaven share price to fall by almost 9 per cent in just minutes.
Struggling coal baron Nathan Tinkler is the biggest shareholder in Whitehaven, and Mr Moylan urged him to divest from coal.
"Invest in renewables or anything else," he said.
"There are plenty of ways that Nathan Tinkler can invest his money rather than screwing over a local community and destroying a state forest."
The comments struck an unlikely harmony with comments from Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty, who despite angrily labelling the hoax "outrageous", 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 said.
Mr Haggarty said Whitehaven would look to sell a portion of the Maules Creek mine to an offtake partner.