October 11, 2013

False Samsung Press Release Sends Swedish Firm’s Stock Soaring

Peter Suciu for – Your Universe Online

Shares in Swedish firm Fingerprint Cards AB, a maker of biometric sensors, were sent soaring by 51 percent in the minutes after a press release said that South Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics had agreed to buy the company.

After 17 minutes of trading, the stock was suspended by the Stockholm exchange due to the volatility.

The problem was that neither company had sent the release to press release distributor Cision AB and it appeared to be a hoax. Fingerprint Cards did not send the release and the distributor was apparently deceived.

“Obviously, we have been a victim of fraud,” Magnus Thell, head of Cision in Sweden said in an interview to Bloomberg on Friday. “We spoke with an individual who posed as the managing director of Fingerprint Cards and were simply tricked.”

It did not appear however that the Stockholm-based company’s computer systems had been hacked.

“We have substantial precautions and procedures in place but in this case we were tricked,” Thell added.

Due to the nature of this hoax, Cision has filed a police report.

The release had claimed that Samsung had paid $650 million to buy Fingerprint Cards, which is in fact developing capacitive touch sensors that are similar to those found in the latest Apple iPhones. The company’s scanners, which can be embedded into smartphones and tablets, are already on trial with Microsoft.

Rumors – real or otherwise – have circulated that this technology could appear in Samsung devices, including its flagship phone, the Galaxy S5, when that device is released next year. That fact made the hoax press release all the more believable.

The fake release, which even “quoted” Samsung’s co-chief executive Kwon Oh-hyan, as well as Johan Carlström, head of Fingerprint Cards, appeared at 10:30 am local time, and was widely circulated by Cision. The stock prices of the Swedish firm then rose on the news.

At 10:55 am Cision rushed out its own actual statement that stated that the contents of the press release were “incorrect.” It apologized to Fingerprint Cards and stakeholders.

This was followed up by the Swedish tech firm issuing a statement at 11:30 am that noted, “The previous press release was not sent by Fingerprint Cards AB. What has happened will be reported to the police and to the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority.”

Samsung, for its part, called the story a “market rumor,” which suggested that Fingerprint Cards may have been the victim of a ploy that was designed to ramp up the value of its shares.

“We cannot comment on any specific details on this apparent false information that seems to have been released to the market,” Johan Allstrin, head of the Swedish financial authority’s market-monitoring division, told Bloomberg.

Fingerprint Cards isn’t alone in being the victim of such a hoax. Last November a fake press release suggested Wi-Fi provider ICOA was to be acquired by Google for $400 million; while in 2010, General Mills Inc., the maker of Cheerios and other breakfast cereal, was the victim of a hoax that suggested the company’s supply chain was under investigation.

Fingerprint Cards was also in the news recently, as it purchased key wireless patents from a world-leading patent holder as a means to strengthen its IPR portfolio. The purchase consisted of more than 100 granted patents covering markets in the United States, Europe and Asia.