Earlier this month, shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) dropped sharply after a report that CEO Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack appeared on CNN's iReport site, posted by an independent, unpaid "journalist."
The report was quickly debunked, but the stock was briefly down as much as 5.4%, leaving whoever started the rumor with an opportunity to make a quick buck.
Conspiracy theorists pointed to those evil hedge funds, naked short sellers, and nefarious offshore market manipulator. But Bloomberg reports that the Securities & Exchange Commission has traced the report to an 18-year old. The SEC is currently investigating the youngster's motives -- was it a prank or an effort to manipulate the stock price and profit from an undisclosed short position?
In the past, Steve Jobs has blamed the rumors about his health on hedge funds shorting his company's stock, but with the power of the internet allowing anyone to spread a rumor, the rumor monger doesn't even need to be someone powerful and connected. As Winston Churchill said, a lie can get half way around the world before the truth gets its pants on.
And that was before the internet!