Last September, Crikey attacked what we described as a “highly speculative, highly questionable, highly irresponsible and highly damaging story” in The Australian a few days earlier that claimed Macquarie Bank needed to refinance $45 billion in debt by March 2009 — a story that was not checked with Macquarie, was immediately denied by Macquarie, but triggered a 20% fall in the value of its shares on the day it was published.

Today we learn that that the corporate watchdog ASIC has “stepped up its investigation into rumours spread last year about the financial position of Macquarie” by searching the email records of a former stockbroker. As well, according to today’s SMH, “it is understood the email records of others, including those of a journalist, may also be seized in coming weeks as ASIC tries to uncover the source of the Macquarie rumours”.

Should ASIC be using its investigative powers to seize the records of stockbrokers and journalists? Isn’t this an assault on the freedom of the marketplace and the press?

Not at all. ASIC is doing its job to regulate markets that, until very recently, had lurched out of control. And if journalists and newspapers get caught up in that net because they fuelled market rumours, tough.

Peter Fray

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