Metgasco had announced it was pulling out of NSW. The announcement came in the midst of ongoing anti-coal seam gas protests in parts of NSW. Metgasco Chief Executive Peter Henderson said that the closure of its gas operations in the Northern Rivers was due to intense community opposition. Metgasco will shift its operation to another site near Casino where it would build a solar thermal plant.
Unfortunately, this announcement was just a hoax played by 16-year-old Kudra Falla-Ricketts for April Fool's Day, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Kudra was able to play the prank through sending fake press release across media channels. The fake release even bore Metgasco's insignia and was sent through her school email address. According to the fake release, Metgasco is detrimental to water supplies and the company is ''not listening to the people who are telling them to stop.''
Kudra did not realise the gravity of her prank until she was called by her principal.
Mr Henderson said that Kudra's prank may cause a devastating effect on shareholders as in the case of a prank by Jonathan Moylan which erased $314 million off Whitehaven Coal's share value in 2013.
Mr Henderson said that under corporations law, Kudra might face a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and be fine $765,000 for the prank she pulled.
For damage control, Metgasco penned a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, saying that the email was just a prank and its operations in the Clarence-Moreton Basin remains stable.
ASIC is already looking into the case.
''Given that it's a minor and it appears as though there was no harm caused to the market ... [it might be considered] appropriate to speak to the person to make sure that they understand what they've done, rather than move towards any sort of enforcement action,'' explained University of Melbourne law expert Ian Ramsay.
Kudra's father, Aidan Ricketts, said that Metgasco's decision to bring the case to ASIC was ''humourless and bullying.''
But Mr Henderson said the company wishes no harm for the girl.
''We understand it's a practical joke. We don't wish any bad things to the young lady, we understand she's made a mistake, but it was fraudulent.''