Vinci is taking legal action after malevolent hoaxers caused its share price to plunge on Tuesday, 22 November, temporarily wiping billions off its stock market value.
Responding yesterday, the French construction giant gave a minute-by-minute account of how a sophisticated impersonation hoodwinked the media, causing a nearly 20% fall in its share price within minutes.
Its stocks recovered, but the group now wants justice, and has decided to file a complaint "against persons unknown", it said.
The account shows how easy it is to deceive the media and cause havoc. Hoaxers used three separate false press releases, and some basic impersonation tactics, including a fake website.
According to Vinci, its "Black Tuesday" unfolded as follows:
16:05: A false press release goes out to media offices. According to reports, this press release said the company had fired its chief financial officer following accounting irregularities worth several billion euros.
16:06-16:07: Bloomberg and Dow Jones agencies pick up elements of the false press release.
16:10 onwards: The Group’s real spokesperson denies the false information to the press agencies. This official denial is immediately repeated by the agencies.
16:15: Trading in Vinci shares is suspended after a fall of more than 18% in the share price.
16:19: Trading in the shares resumes and the price goes back up to a level close to but lower than that recorded before the false press release.
16:27: Impersonators distribute a second false press release containing a partial denial.
16:49: Vinci publishes a written denial on its website.
17:02: Distribution of the written denial to the AMF, France’s financial markets regulator, financial markets and press.
17:15: Vinci’s Legal Director calls the AMF.
17:35: Distribution of a third and final false press release containing a "pseudo-claim" of responsibility.
Vinci said the false information was "relayed too rapidly" by several press agencies, causing havoc.
It said that so far it had not discovered any intrusion of its IT systems.
In fact, e-mail addresses including Vinci’s name were used to mislead the media. The names of the Group’s Communications Director and of the head of the press department were also misused.
Finally, a false Vinci website was created on which a downloadable version of the first false press release was published.
Based on this evidence, Vinci said it has decided to file a complaint against persons unknown.