The Fake News Release

As the debate over the form and function of the modern news release presses on, today we learn of one news release that actually succeeded in getting fairly prominent pick up — by the Dow Jones Newswire, no less.

One problem: the release was a hoax perpetrated by a group of as yet unknown mischief-makers attempting to further soil the already sullied reputation of one of America’s largest banks on the day before its quarterly earnings announcement. 

In its report of the editorial screw-up, WSJ’s “Deal Journal” blog wrote:

“This morning a quite realistic-looking press release said the bank has launched a new campaign — “Your Bank of America.” Dressed in BofA’s famed “flagstaff” logos and color–it’s even the right fonts–the “release” says the bank is on a quest to find out how banking should happen and wants America’s help. On a related website, yourbofa.com, a letter purporting to be from CEO Brian Moynihan kicks off with “Today, it’s time to acknowledge that our Bank isn’t working anymore.” Bank of America says the release is a fake.”

Apparently the perpetrators of the hoax claimed that the release was issued under the imprimatur of BusinessWire, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, and one of the better-known and highly credible paid wire services. It wasn’t, but just the suggestion that a paid wire service might be ensnared in another scandal sends shutters up and down the spines of those toiling in this still-profitable industry.

The last time it happened, BW changed its policy for accepting releases, which was trumpeted in a news release via BusinessWire:

“NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)– In the wake of a fraudulent press release that is now the subject of a Federal criminal investigation, Business Wire will no longer accept client releases submitted via e-mail, effective immediately, Cathy Baron Tamraz, chief executive officer, announced today. The elimination of e-mail was scheduled to be part of a planned security upgrade this August, but this weekend’s incident advanced the timetable for the policy change.”

As for the target of this hoax, its communications team had its hands full navigating the less than ebullient news stemming from its earnings announcement, resulting in the bank’s fall from the number one slot as the nation’s biggest. From The New York Times DealBook:

“Still, its revenue decline stands in contrast to the results at other banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, which reported increases in revenue and profit. It also underscores a retrenchment that forced Bank of America out of the top spot as the biggest bank in the United States.”

For what it’s worth, Bank of America’s actual earnings release was distributed by Business Wire.

3 Comments

  1. Kristen E.
    April 24, 2012

    It’s interesting how fast news travels and how easily “news” can be posted online and spread via social networking. It seems like now, not all news is really news and often times the information is fake or inaccurate. It’s disturbing how easily “news” can be spread and appear to come from legitimate sources, as in this case.

  2. Katye Hanlin
    April 23, 2012

    Wow, I can’t believe this happened! Whoever did this must have had an agenda further than just pulling a “hoax” because it only generated negative feedback for the bank, while not being that entertaining of a joke. I hope no one was seriously affected by this, and it seems like the bank has everything under control with their quick reaction and statement that it was all a fake release. Hopefully, they will be able to retain the customers they have and prove that from now on, whatever has their name and logo on it can be trusted and coming directly from them.

  3. academia-research
    April 23, 2012

    academia-research Thanks!