Intimidation, surveillance and conspiracy theories: inside the FT’s five-year investigation of a billion-dollar fraud.
By Dan McCrum and cross-posted from Financial Times.
January 30 2019: it was mid-afternoon on a grey Wednesday in London when a dozen or so anonymous Twitter bots burst into life. “McCrums a criminal . . . Dannyboy McCRIM is GOING TO JAIL!!” they sang.
As this stream of online abuse gathered pace, another more formal voice joined the chorus, that of Heike Pauls, a respected and widely followed equity research analyst at Germany’s Commerzbank. The following morning, a research note to the bank’s clients was published. It was titled “More fake news”.
“Yesterday, serial offender Dan McCrum, journalist at the otherwise renowned FT, published another negative article about Wirecard,” Pauls wrote. “As before, McCrum’s article followed a visible increase in short [selling] during the past few weeks. We believe that market manipulation looks obvious . . . ”
She went on to say: “We are actually more concerned about [the] obvious active participation of the FT in market manipulation than about the allegations to the company. We believe that regulators need to take a serious look at the situation.”
At first, I thought the note was a hoax but, astoundingly, it was real. It was the latest episode in a skirmish that was to last 18 months, leaving me under attack as German banks and regulators waved away evidence of corporate criminality to place me at the heart of a conspiracy theory. At times, it seemed like the world had gone mad…