An activist who temporarily wiped $300 million off a mining company’s value by issuing a hoax media release has walked free.
Jonathan Moylan, 26, was released on a two-year good behaviour bond on Friday after the judge decided he was unlikely to attempt a similar stunt in future.
The anti-coalmining activist sparked market upheaval after he issued the bogus release on January 7, 2013.
It claimed ANZ Bank had withdrawn a $1.2 billion loan from the company Whitehaven, which was intended to develop its Maules Creek open-cut coalmine in northern NSW.
The email bore the ANZ logo, email address [email protected]苏州半永久, and used the name of actual ANZ employee Toby Kent.
“We want our customers to be assured that we will not be investing in coal projects that cause significant dislocation of farmers, unacceptable damage to the environment or social conflict,” Moylan quoted Kent, ANZ’s group head of corporate sustainability, as saying.
Within 10 minutes it had sparked the first media report.
As a vast number of shares were traded, Whitehaven had about $300 million temporarily wiped off its market price.
After the fallout, Moylan said his intention had been to get ANZ to admit to funding the controversial project so customers knew where their money was being invested.
Sentencing him in the NSW Supreme Court for disseminating false information, Justice David Davies accepted he did not mean to hurt investors, which included superannuation and retirement fund holders.
“If he had thought the matter through a little more carefully, he would have realised that some investors would undoubtedly be injured,” Justice Davies said, adding later that “some investors lost money or their investment in Whitehaven completely”.
He said it was “quite hypocritical” of Moylan to point the finger at journalists for running the story, after it was clear he set it up with the idea that at least some would accept it as genuine.
The judge also remarked that Moylan had committed a number of minor offences pursuing what he believed but this hoax “was the most successful … in drawing public attention”.
While Justice Davies considered it likely that Moylan would continue to engage in “minor breaches of the law”, he said there was a “low likelihood” the activist would reoffend by committing one “similar in nature and scale”.
Moylan’s supporters cheered as he came out of the court complex.
While he apologised to the shareholders who had lost money, Moylan told reporters: “When governments and mining companies work so closely together … then people have no choice but to take action and sometimes those actions fall foul of the law.”
He said he “stands with” the other people arrested for protesting at Maules Creek.
“Good on you. They’re the people who are doing it not for themselves but they’re doing it for all of us,” he said.