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Apple shares fall on false report

October 04, 2008|Michelle Quinn | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple Inc. investors experienced palpitations Friday after an apparently false report that Chief Executive Steve Jobs had had a heart attack sent shares down 9% in a matter of minutes.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the report, which appeared just before 7 a.m. EDT on iReport .com, a user-submitted news website run by CNN.

An anonymous person using the pseudonym Johntw posted a message claiming that Jobs had been rushed to the hospital with "severe chest pains and shortness of breath."

CNN doesn't vouch for the veracity of news on iReport, promoting it as "Unedited. Unfiltered. News." But Apple shareholders are already nervous about the health of Jobs, who beat cancer several years ago but has provoked worries with his recent gaunt appearance.

Apple shares rose briefly following the opening bell, but then plunged until the company began knocking down the rumor as "not true." The shares rebounded but still closed down 3% at $97.07, their lowest point in a year.

IReport has served as a tip sheet of sorts for CNN. The news organization researches and edits the information it finds on iReport before airing it or posting it on CNN.com, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Martin. Since launching in February, more than 6,400 iReports have been used by CNN.

IReport removed the Jobs item after it was flagged as inappropriate by a community member. The site closed the account and tried unsuccessfully to contact Johntw. The SEC is seeking information, and iReport is cooperating with the investigation, Martin said.

This isn't the first time that Jobs, 53, has fallen victim to an erroneous health-related report. In August, Bloomberg News accidentally published an advance obituary. The CEO made fun of it during his next public appearance, standing in front of a large screen with the words: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

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michelle.quinn@latimes.com

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