Hoax press release sees Vinci share price tumble and lawyers mobilised

French construction firm Vinci was the subject of a hoax press release yesterday, which said its CFO had been sacked and that it would be restating its financial statements for last year and the first half of this year.

Vinci's arch to shield radioactive waste in Chernobyl is slid into place earlier this month
Vinci's arch to shield radioactive waste in Chernobyl is slid into place earlier this month

Vinci, which employs 179,000 people and has revenues of €36.9bn, works on a number of high-tech and large-scale projects across the globe (see image above).

As a result of the hoax, shares in the firm plummeted 19 per cent, and finished three per cent down when trading closed yesterday, the FT reported.

In a response posted on its website, Vinci denied all information contained in the release, and said it would now be considering legal action.

A later story on Bloomberg said that it had been "among the few news organizations to report from the false statement".

Vinci has yet to respond to PRWeek's request for further comment, but financial structuring firm Hawksmoor Partners asked whether the hoax signals a need to bring regulation to the public relations industry.

The issue of fake news has been the subject of concern among media and politicians in recent weeks, as Facebook and Google have been forced to respond to the apparent proliferation of fabricated information distributed via the platforms about the US election.

Speaking to PRWeek sister title Campaign about its impact, Tony Telloni, a veteran PR executive who has held senior positions at SparkPR and Golin, said fake news spreads fast on social media, but can cause damage to a brand that takes "anywhere from six weeks to six months" to repair. PepsiCo is just beginning this process after fake quotes were attributed to its CEO.

UPDATE: Following publication of this story, a spokesperson for Bloomberg provided the following statement: "As soon as we realised the press release was a hoax, we corrected our headlines immediately. We have been in touch with Vinci's leadership, and are investigating the situation."

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