France’s financial markets watchdog (AMF) fined Bloomberg € 5 million ($5.5 million) for publishing false information about the financial situation at Vinci, a French construction company. The report caused a 18% drop in the company’s shares and a loss of € 6 billion in overall market value.
The mentioned report was made by the journalists of Bloomberg News on November 22, 2016 on the basis of the hoax press release received, allegedly from the Vinci press service. The press release reported on alleged violations during the audit in the financial statements, due to which the results of 2015 and 2016 will be reviewed and the financial director of Vinci will be dismissed. The press release provided a link to a fake site very similar to the official Vinci page, as well as the phone number of the alleged spokesman for the construction company. Within three minutes after receiving this press release, reporters from the Bloomberg news agency in Paris posted a message in the feed. Dozens of other media outlets did the same. Vinci shares reacted with a 18.8% decline with a loss of € 6 billion in market value.
In a statement, the French regulator said that Bloomberg “should have known that this information was false” and that it “would likely lead to an abnormal or artificial change in the value of Vinci shares.” AMF emphasized that “prior to the publication of this press release, the journalists did not check the information contained in it,” although it, given its nature and the likely consequences of the publication, “required increased vigilance from journalists.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg announced its intention to appeal the decision of the French regulator- “We regret that the AMF did not find and punish the perpetrator of the hoax, and chose instead to penalize a media outlet that was doing its very best to report on what appeared to be newsworthy information.”