Crikey is now five years old but we reckon this effort on Foster’s last week rates in our 10 most important stories.
Crikey was in the thick of it on Thursday, January 27, pushing a major company in Foster’s to force the resignation of a key executive and disclose to the market his name and the conduct in question. This is what we wrote in our first edition that went out at 1pm:
Has a Foster’s exec been suspended for dumping shares?
Crikey has been tipped off that a senior Foster’s executive has been suspended for dumping their shares ahead of the Southcorp takeover announcement. Foster’s shares have dived from $5.90 to $5.20 since the deal with the Oatley family and subsequent $3.1 billion Southcorp takeover was unveiled two weeks ago. Therefore, if true, it was a well-timed exit.
We called the executive’s mobile phone and it went to voicemail. We called Foster’s and was told the executive “is not in the office today”. We’ve emailed ASIC to check and asked the Foster’s spinner to get back to us.
At this stage the silence has been deafening but we’ll give you all the details and definitive denials or confirmations in today’s second edition at about 5pm. At this stage this is still an unconfirmed tip but we sense there might be something in it.
And this is what we sent out at 5.50pm on Thursday afternoon:
Insider trading at Foster’s
The shutters appear to have gone up at Foster’s over this senior executive who has apparently been suspended for dumping his Foster’s shares shortly before the takeover of Southcorp was announced.
We’ve called Foster’s twice today and have still not received a call back. We also emailed the text of our tip to ASIC:
A senior exec at Foster’s (name withheld) has been suspended for dumping his Foster’s shares just prior to the Southcorp bid being announced. ASIC are now investigating him for insider trading. If a senior Foster’s exec didn’t have much faith in the deal, how can they expect shareholders to back it?
The ASIC spinner replied as follows:
Hello Crikey, I can neither confirm nor deny that this is a matter we are currently looking at. If that situation changes, I’ll be in touch.
At this point we can only refer to what former Victorian Liberal leader Denis Napthine told the age (melbourne) magazine about 3AW’s powerful Rumour File segment after the 7am news each morning:
If the rumour has no substance, they’ll be on the phone within 10 to 15 minutes. If they’re not on the phone by 8am, you know there’s something in it.
We emailed the story to more than 16,000 people at lunchtime today and have not heard a word from anyone. Therefore, you can take that as confirmation Foster’s have suspended a senior executive for alleged insider trading and ASIC is taking a look. The big question now is whether any of the newspapers will be able to firm it up tonight and name the said executive tomorrow.
Then this is what Foster’s told the ASX just 8 minutes later at 5.58pm:
Senior Management Resignation
Foster’s Group Limited (Foster’s) today accepted the resignation of Dr Robert Porter, Vice President Investor Relations.
This follows what may have been an inadvertent breach of Foster’s strict internal guidelines and processes regulating employee trading in its shares.
It is inappropirate for the company to comment any further on this matter at this time.
Foster’s will announce a successor to Dr Porter as soon as practicable.
The Friday papers were all over the story as you can see from The Ageand The Australian. “The Foster’s Group has become embroiled in a share trading scandal in the middle of its $3.1 billion takeover bid for rival Southcorp”, began The Australian‘s report. But The Age still relegated it to the business section, and The Australian only thought it worthy of page six. Only the Fin Review put it on the front page.
And none of them chose to mention Crikey’s role in breaking the story. Does anyone else agree that the story may never have seen the light of day but for our role? There’s nothing like a company being deluged with inquiries from media and analysts to force some disclosure to the market.
Meanwhile, The Weekend Fin had an interesting story suggesting that Dr Porter might have been caught out because the confirmation of his trades was sent to his old address at Southcorp, where he used to work.