The gutsy (and stupid) “citizen journalist” who posted an erroneous story that said CEO Steve Jobs had a heart attack has the hallmarks of a short seller, and it’s likely that he (or she) could face criminal charges and possibly prison time, according to one attorney.

The erroneous story, which appeared on CNN’s iReport — a citizen journalism site pitched as “unedited” and “unfiltered” — prompted a sell-off of Apple shares, which dropped to $95.41 from $105.27, between 9:40 a.m. and 9:52 a.m. EST, before Apple denied the report and the stock recovered.

CNN says the story was removed after it was flagged by the community, and the user’s account has been disabled, so at least that part of the system worked.

But since information seeded on the internet (to say nothing of one of the internet’s premiere news brands) can seep into the markets virtually instantaneously, 12 minutes is an eternity during which time anybody with certain knowledge of the truth or falsity of the report could, you will pardon the expression, make a killing.

“These sorts of financial crimes or attempts to defraud investors carry criminal penalties and the possibility of imprisonment,” says Vernick.

Cripes! Trying to make a few pennies in the market is difficult enough without creeps artificially distorting the process. That’s aside from the professional creeps. And Congress.

  1. LDA says:

    What is the penalty for financial terrorism. Threatening the crash of the world economy and knocking $1.4 Trillion dollars (of bits) of the stock market unless you get your ransom (bill) must mean the chair.

  2. Pfkad says:

    Another illustration of how the markets stupidly react (and can be influenced by) unfounded rumor, insipid hearsay and general FUD. And we’re bailing these geniuses out! Yikes!

  3. Improbus says:

    Short sighted short seller. What a maroon. If you are going to manipulate the market don’t do it in a way that points directly back to you. De de de.

  4. Mr. Fusion says:

    If Apple’s (or any) stock is so tied to one person, it is time to sell.

    It is the greedy short sellers trying to make a quick buck that have put the markets on the insecure footing they find themselves in.

  5. Jägermeister says:

    #4 – Mr. Fusion – If Apple’s (or any) stock is so tied to one person, it is time to sell.

    It is. Just watch Steve Jobs’ MacWorld keynotes…

  6. Lou says:

    Paulson did the same thing with the market scare. All his old buddies are going to buy over at GS.

  7. Buzz says:

    Throw the eBook at this jerk, Apple. Get a billion dollar civil judgement, too.


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