Handelsbanken fined SKr3m for Internet reporting violations

Handelsbanken fined SKr3m for Internet reporting violations

Swedish banking group Handelsbanken has been fined SKr3 million by the Stockholm Stock Exchange for violating reporting regulations by inadvertently posting its third quarter results on an unprotected section of its Web site before releasing them to the market.

The regulations require listed firms to release financial results to at least two established news agencies and at least three national daily newspapers before they are posted on the company's Web site.

The exchange says Handelsbanken contravened its listing regulations by not handling price-sensitive information correctly.

The bank released its Q3 results to the market at 12:39 pm on October 24 2006. But by as early as 12:31 pm the price of Handelsbanken shares had fallen sharply. This was later found to be because the report had been made available externally on the bank's Web site earlier at 12:25 pm.

The investigation by the exchange's disciplinary committee found that the document could be accessed by changing a number of basic details in the search address previously used by the bank when publishing its Q2 report.

"Because the report was made available on the Internet, it has been concluded that the bank had released the information, since it was relatively easy to work out the Internet address," says the exchange in a statement.

The committeee says in similar cases from 2003, it found companies guilty of breaching the listing agreement even by the "unintentional release of information". In these previous cases the companies received warnings - rather than fines - but "since the current leak occurred despite the practice having been highlighted specifically in the past" the committee has fined Handelsbanken SKr3 million.

In 2002 Swedish IT firm Intentia International accused Reuters of using 'illegal means' to obtain and publish its Q3 results ahead of their official release.

Intentia claimed that Reuters hacked into Intentia's IT systems and accessed information on Intentia's third quarter results, which were then published without prior confirmation from the company.

But Reuters maintained that its Stockholm news bureau had accessed Intentia's public Web site - not a private or password-protected site - and found the results ahead of the scheduled release time.

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