New York, NY, USA, September 18, 2019

What if the phenomenon of fake news mutated to extend to the sphere of financial information, at the risk of plunging stock prices? This is the dystopian analysis Wiztopic introduces in a study on the "manipulation of corporate information". 

The story dates back to January 2019, when self-titled activists called the "Yes Men" published a fake letter from Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock. A leading fund manager on Wall Street announced his intention to get out of fossil fuels and steer its portfolio towards low-carbon industries. Superb...but false and misleading, yet reported by the Financial Times. Three years ago, the American company Fitbit was also the victim of a false press release announcing an offer to buy the Chinese fund ABM Capital. In 2016, France experienced a similar story, when the Vinci group was abused by a fake press service, with phony communications (including the denial) and fake number of a real press officer. The hoax? An irregularity in the accounts, with dismissal of the chief financial officer. This false information, which was covered by Bloomberg, cost the construction group, within a few hours, 7 billion euros of market capitalization and a fall of 19% of the stock market price (-3.8% at closing). 


"Malicious information can be made credible by a financial news agency”, observes Jerome Lascombe, president of Wiztopic, a platform specializing in the communication of listed companies. For their part, deepfakes [video manipulation of the movements of the lips and face] are coming into the economic world and there are applications for tampering with voices. "Should we prepare ourselves on tomorrow’s social networks for real images of bosses relaying completely distorted comments? In any case, it is a fear taken very seriously. David Dieudonné, director of Newslab Google, speaks of "sophistication of the phenomenon" and believes that "we should not delete the video but inform the user". His CrossCheck device, which brings together some thirty journalists with First Draft, was used for the French, Brazilian and Indonesian elections. Will it have to be extended to financial information to avoid major manipulation of the stock exchanges by hackers? "For verification work to be more focused, journalists need to update themselves on new technologies," he recalls. But Google leaves it to the editors – and the user – the task of unraveling the truth from the fake. 


During a Strategies / Wiztopic breakfast on June 4, Jérôme Lascombe recalled that robots broadcast stock information without verification. His company offers security for the information chain, for example for client Bouygues, through the blockchain, which makes it possible to lock the information between the transmitter and the receiver. Thomas Barbelet, Executive Director in charge of Marketing and Brand at Keolis, emphasizes that "if you are structured, you can respond quickly – which reduces time spent dealing with fake news". This speed was lacking in Vinci in 2016, due to lack of adequate communication. But one must distinguish between pure malevolence for the purpose of enrichment and the strategies of hacktivists who want to challenge societies on their causes. On April 1, 2016, Pfizer "suffered" an April fool's joke on the stock market, when a press release announced that it was lowering the price of its medicines. Unfortunately, it was a joke. 

Source : Wiztopic translation of Strategie article pulish on 06/25/2019