A fake story that appeared on CNN's iReport site which claimed that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The agency's enforcement unit is trying to determine whether the iReport.com posting was intended to push down the company's stock price. CNN is cooperating with the SEC's probe, network spokeswoman Jennifer Martin said. The report is "not true," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said in an interview.
I can't say that this investigation is unexpected. I came across the story very early on in the day on Friday (via Digg) and after about 10 minutes worth of digging around was certain that it was false (although at least one site took it on face value), but the effect on Apple's stock price was almost immediate.
Apple stock recovered but later fell again and ended the day at under $100 a share:
But these sudden falls in stock price based on speculation and rumor show that Apple is at present very vulnerable, especially when it comes to Steve Jobs and his health. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean at Yale University's School of Management had this to say to Bloomberg:
"Leaving it to rumor and speculation is reckless," said Sonnenfeld, who has personally owned Apple shares since 1997, the year Jobs returned as CEO. "If he is healthy, they should say so. If he's not, we should know that too."
While it's true that no stock is a safe bet under the current economic conditions, Apple stock seems to be particularly vulnerable to any bad news, and especially so if that relates to Jobs.