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The Almighty Buck Businesses Apple

Fake E-Mail Results in Angry Apple Shareholders 193

drhamad writes "Apple stock dropped 2.2% today in mid-afternoon trading as Engadget published news based on a faked e-mail inside Apple. 'Apparently an internal memo was sent to several Apple employees--and forwarded to Engadget--around 9am CT today saying that Apple issued a press release with the news that the iPhone was now scheduled for October, and Leopard was delayed until January. About an hour and a half after that e-mail went out, a second e-mail was sent--this time officially from Apple--saying the first e-mail was a fake, and that the delivery schedule for the iPhone and Leopard had not changed.'"
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Fake E-Mail Results in Angry Apple Shareholders

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  • by bluemonq ( 812827 ) * on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:28PM (#19152627) the fact that this hasn't happened more often.
  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:28PM (#19152639)
    Well, I guess that when you come to expect that a company's news comes primarily from intentional and unintentional leaks due to their own secrecy, it makes sense that people would buy this. Maybe it's time Apple re-thinks their super-secret policies.
  • by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:29PM (#19152647) Homepage
    When something like this happens where a direct financial impact can be measured, do any of the rules change regarding the protections that the reporting website operate under?

    If the New York Times reports that Microsoft was filing bankruptcy and the stock plummeted, The NYT would be held to some sort of standard. Sometimes a retraction isn't enough, for instance, to protect from a lawsuit.

    Now when it's a website, do any of the protections exist, and what are the implications for these guys in terms of liability?
  • The SEC just needs to find who shorted the heck out of Apple stock yesterday.
  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:38PM (#19152779)
    If they had a source, and a valid reason to believe that source was credible, I don't see how they can be punished for that. I would hope they had more of a reason to believe it was credible than that it came from an "" e-mail address.

    If you start punishing reporters for getting a story wrong based on a faulty source when a reasonable person would have accepted the source as credible, you will basically kill investigative journalism (as if it wasn't close enough to dead in this country as it is).
  • by neoform ( 551705 ) <> on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:41PM (#19152811) Homepage
    Shareholders are made fully aware of the risks of buying and selling stocks.

    If a website prints false news they can be held for libel by Apple, but not by the shareholders individually.. it's all part of the risk.
  • by vought ( 160908 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:43PM (#19152857)
    Maybe it's time Apple re-thinks their super-secret policies.

    Maybe it's time the Apple rumor industry shut down. It's any company's decision to keep any and all information about upcoming products secret.

    The fact that Apple has given in to preannouncing some products lately (Leopard, AppleTV, iPhone) shows that they have given ground on their previously super-secret ways.

    When you're known as the industry's R&D house, it's likely worth a lot of money to keep new projects and features secret for as long as possible. Asking a company to tell you everything they're working on (or schedules) is nuts because it lets your competitors know where to aim - would you want your employer to do that?
  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:44PM (#19152873)
    Just given a few different months, you could quite easily start narrowing down a leak.
    Email 1: iPhone delayed until September. Leopard delayed until October.
    Email 2: October/October
    Email 3: October/November

    If you already had a list of suspected leaks you could narrow the field very quickly with different month combinations.
  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:49PM (#19152929)

    Well, I guess that when you come to expect that a company's news comes primarily from intentional and unintentional leaks due to their own secrecy, it makes sense that people would buy this. Maybe it's time Apple re-thinks their super-secret policies.

    Perhaps, or maybe it's Apple's way of finding out who's been breaking their NDA. Perhaps by first looking at trading activity, then by looking at the wording of the email that was posted on Engadget. After all, if you found this out, you'd want to either short stock or something first, then leak it out... Remember, Apple still has to deal with leaks, and something as wild as this may make it obvious since it'll hit the big sites (one of which is likely to post it verbatim, thus identifying the culprit). And people who react to silly things like "A well-connected Apple employee said..." or "Our insider Apple employee" do deserve to get burned if they make financial decisions based on an unverifiable source. The source could very well be real, but it could also be made up. Speculation on new products is one thing, but actually doing stuff based on news whose validity is as good as the neighbourhood bum...

    As for intentional leaks, that's hard to determine. But if you're going to do stuff like sell stock, you might want to wait for official confirmation. Because it's so easy to write "A VP of marketing at Apple has told me that the iPhone will support 3rd party applications, and there is going to be an SDK released June 1. Developer iPhones will be released then as well."
  • by Mia'cova ( 691309 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:53PM (#19152987)
    No kidding. Plus, engadget and friends are going to have to be extra careful for a while. It seems like this would be an easy way to make some money shorting a stock. You'd have to pull it off but it's pretty hard not to predict some copy-cat attempts in the coming months.
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @07:08PM (#19153161)
    In this case, the scams are self-correcting. The more false rumors are generated, the more users will wait for official press releases and dismiss anonymous "internal memo leaks". So this can not happen too often.
  • by evilgrug ( 915703 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @07:28PM (#19153435)
    As one Engadget reader commented mere minutes after the initial story was posted:

    "This simply does not make any sense.

    Apple only pushed Leopard back a few weeks ago, and confirmed the iPhone shipping even more recently when they released their quarterly earnings.

    Is someone pulling your leg?"

    These are the kind of things that Engadget should have thought about before the story was posted without contacting Apple.

    And if they were running behind, as you hypothesize, why would they need to "test if they could push back the releases", either they're behind and they have to, or they're not behind and they don't have to. What do they do if they are running behind and do "scare the sheep"? That makes even less sense.
  • by VertigoAce ( 257771 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @07:37PM (#19153521)
    Engadget wasn't really tricked here. They reported on an email that actually was sent to Apple employees and was forwarded by a real Apple employee to engadget (and it sounds like this employee has been a reliable source in the past). That is about the best source you could have short of an official press release.

    The real story is that somebody managed to fool some number of Apple employees into believing the fake memo. It's hard to say much more without some more details (was the From: header spoofed, or was it just good enough to make it past a casual glance?). Why aren't official confidential memos signed by a closely guarded private key? That way employees would know unsigned memos are quite possibly fake.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @07:51PM (#19153697) Journal
    Maybe it's time Apple re-thinks their super-secret policies.

    Get serious.

    Shortly after I went to work there, a colleague explained to me exactly what that secrecy is worth in monetary terms. Apple got the iMac G4 on the cover of Time magazine. You can't buy Time's cover as an ad placement, but if you could it would probably be worth a tens of millions of dollars.

  • Perhaps, or maybe it's Apple's way of finding out who's been breaking their NDA.

    Yeah, and I'd bet the Board of Directors would have liked a chance to vet that kind of move before blowing away $2 billion in shareholder value. I think this is just a prank gone horribly wrong. But for the grace of common sense go I.
  • by Jeremy_Bee ( 1064620 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @08:21PM (#19154095)
    Everyone is jumping all over Apple for their "secrecy" when it clearly has nothing to do with these kinds of episodes which happen at all kinds of companies, not just the clever secretive ones.

    Others are guessing about which Apple employee will get fired, when all reports indicate an outsider as the source, not a real Apple employee. As consumers of news therefore, it seems that the majority of us have failed to even discern the basic facts here.

    As producers of news, the kiddies at Engadget are the real culprits here and the creators of the whole mess by means of their thoughtless and incompetent "journalism."

    They are the ones that did not bother to simply phone up Apple and ask for a confirmation as any decent journalist would normally do. They are the ones that continued to run the false story on the main page even after they received a correction from Apple itself (they put that *after* the break for about an hour after they found out and did not change their headline). They are the ones that filled up their own comments area, calling the people protesting their move "jerks" and telling them to "shut up." They are the ones that deleted posts on their site that were too critical of their actions.

    The problem is simply one of a lack of journalistic standards and a blurring of the line between "I'm a rich kid who likes computers and has a website" and "I am an IT reporter." Incompetence and asshattery plain and simple.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @08:22PM (#19154115)
    Think longer term. There are rumors of a stock consolidation at Apple.

    I wouldn't be surprised if someone smeared Apple to get a better price on stock to hold on to. Stock prices will return to normal soon enough, if they haven't already.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @08:38PM (#19154259)
    If you've been planning it for months then you're an idiot. AAPL dropped to $105 on the "news." Months ago, they were trading around $90. (the last couple weeks they've shot up like a junkie). If you bought your shorts that far back and are cashing out now, then you've lost your shirt.
  • by jmp_nyc ( 895404 ) * on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:12PM (#19154747)
    The problem is that with Apple trading to all time highs at the beginning of the week, lots of people were shorting it, or buying puts.

    Not to mention that this Friday is the monthly expiration day for traded options. The big brokerages that underwrite most options have a vested interest in having the stock price go down by the time the market closes this Friday. There are options on about 4 million shares that expire worthless if the stock price is below 110, 3.4 million shares worth that expire worthless if the price is below 105, 5 million shares worth that are worthless if the stock is below 100, etc. The backers of those options would love nothing more than to see as many as possible expire worthless. They've been known to manipulate Apple's share price downward in the week leading into expiration. (Or at least Apple has managed to go down in the days before expiration in each of the last 6 months, even as the stock has been generally going up.)

    If you want to know who stands to benefit from Apple going down, see who the big option underwriters are...
  • by Torvaun ( 1040898 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:00AM (#19157231)
    It's all about timing. This isn't a traditional Canary Trap, where a bunch of possible leaks all get slightly different stories, and you see which one gets out. It's a Timed Canary Trap. You take a possible leak, and you give him a fake story. Couple months later, you do the same thing with a different leak. Now, you keep track of how long it took to get out after you baited the trap, and the shortest one is probably it. If there are a few short ones, find out who those people talk to, and you're probably going to find one person they all connect to. It's like Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon, but it's Six Degrees to the Press instead.
  • by The Mutant ( 167716 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:10AM (#19157297) Homepage
    They wouldn't do this in the cash markets and they certainly wouldn't go long Apples shares as you're describing.

    No, if this was manipulation (and I agree with you on the point that it probably was), then someone purchased put options, which increase in value as the underlying security, Apple shares in this case, decline.

    They'd select the precise contracts to purchase based upon expiration dates and how far out of the money the put options were. Options give the holder immense leverage; I've controlled $3.4 million in shares using only about $20K in capital.

    Short selling Apples shares wouldn't be viable as you're back in the cash market again - no leverage.
  • Emails are news?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by natobasso ( 1032186 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @11:29AM (#19162657)
    Whatever happened to fact checking? The journalistic process? When did emails become newsworthy?! For god's sake people, wake up!
  • by heretic108 ( 454817 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @09:41PM (#19173397)
    > I think you're getting your law enforcement agencies confused with ninjas or terrorists.

    These days, what's the real difference?

Variables don't; constants aren't.