In an article that appeared in the print edition and online version of the Mail on Sunday on 7 August 2011, it was suggested that according to Mail on Sunday sources Société Générale, one of Europe's largest banks, was in a 'perilous' state and possibly on the 'brink of disaster'.
We now accept that this was not true and we unreservedly apologise to Société Générale for any embarrassment caused.
So the Mail on Sunday claimed a major bank was on the 'brink of disaster' - based on an anonymous source - and two days later accepted that 'was not true'.
The next day, as its share price began to fall, Société Générale issued a statement 'categorically and vigorously' denying all 'unfounded rumours' about its position.
The New York Times has suggested that the Mail on Sunday had picked up on a fictional 12-part series run by Le Monde:
The series, “End of the Line for the Euro,” looked at how a collapse of the single currency might play out, against the backdrop of French presidential elections next year. While the 12-part story was clearly labeled as fiction, it named real banks, like Société Générale, whose shares plunged 15 percent last Wednesday, prompting the bank to deny speculation that it was in financial trouble.
However, Le Monde denied there was any link between those articles and the stock drop. Erik Izraelewicz, the paper's top editorial executive, wrote:
“The reality is that our fiction had nothing to do with this crazy rumor...The paradox is that this case has come to illustrate something that our series denounced: the unacceptable role played by rumors in determining the fate of nations and businesses.”
And an anonymous executive from the Mail on Sunday has denied any knowledge of the Le Monde series, according to the New York Times:
Neither the paper’s reporters nor its sources had been aware of “End of the Line for the Euro,” the executive said.
The source of the speculation is now subject to an investigation by the French regulator. Société Générale said:
“Regarding the unfounded rumors circulating on the bank, Société Générale received the public apology from the Mail on Sunday, recognizing that their article was not true, and the group made a request to the A.M.F. — which was accepted — to open an enquiry into the origin of these irresponsible rumors."
(hat-tip to Regret the Error)