Funny thing happened on Friday. The AFR claimed one of the more conservative and lowly-geared property trusts was facing a breach of its lending covenants — in the present climate, very much the equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded cinema and burning a roman candle to provide effect.

Predictably the trust — ING Industrial Fund (IIF) — tanked. From an already depressed 70 cents at Thursday’s close, IIF units crashed to just 33 cents — a point at which they would yield 54.5% if dividend is maintained.

IIF was queried by the ASX about the plunge with specific reference to the AFR speculation. IIF replied that the fund was in compliance with all its lending covenants, assets were continuing to perform well in line with previous market guidance and all financial commitments in relation to borrowings were being met.

IIF also said that, in light of general market turbulence in the REIT sector, the fund was reviewing its capital management strategies. No decision had been made about said strategies.

IIF units proceeded to partially recover to close at 63 cents on Friday, with the Pascoe family super fund grabbing some at 48 cents along the way.

In percentage terms, it looked like the AFR claim by Paddy Manning had a massive impact on IIF investors. If the AFR was wrong, as IIF seems to be saying, pity the poor punters who sold out at 33 cents.

Now you might think that having had such a dramatic impact and having been specifically mentioned in the ASX query, the AFR would at least report IIF’s reply in the next edition. But the paper didn’t.

In the middle of a general wrap-up of REIT action, all the AFR Saturday edition managed was to record was that IIF was among several REITs that responded to ASX price queries, adding somewhat churlishly: “ING Industrial conceded it was reviewing its capital management strategies”.

I somehow doubt there would be a REIT in Australia that wasn’t reviewing capital management strategies right now.

I wonder if the AFR is fortunate IIF is not Macquarie Bank as the breaching-covenants claim could make an interesting study if the ASX/ASIC was genuinely interested in tracking down market-moving rumours.

We recently had some heated debate about The Australian’s reporting v Macquarie bank, but on the face of it, this AFR v IIF case looks more clear cut.

Either the AFR or IIF has made a seriously incorrect statement. If it’s IIF, there are ambulance chasers waiting to start a class action. If it’s the AFR … what?

Was it responsible journalism for the AFR to make the claim – and it was a straight out claim, not a report of a market rumour — without comment from IIF?

And, having done that, is there at least a duty not to report IIF’s ASX reply so selectively, with that coloured word “conceded”?

Never mind, it’s not Macquarie. And IIF has been smashed again this morning, down to a low of 47.5 cents at one stage. Marvellous how stories continue to run.