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SEC to Probe Fake Lucent Warning
By Mary Huhn  
N.Y. Post
NEW YORK — The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating a fake press release about Lucent Technologies that was posted on Yahoo!'s message boards Wednesday.

The phony posting, made to look like a PRNewswire release, was a false warning about Lucent's upcoming earning report.

The company received a handful of phone calls yesterday morning.

"We weren't deluged," said Josh Baum, a Lucent spokesman. But after they discovered the bogus posting, Lucent officials contacted Yahoo! and the SEC.

"The SEC takes a dim view of this type of activity," said Baum. "They may want to take action."

The SEC said it was concerned.

"This strikes at the integrity of the Internet. Maintaining that integrity is imperative to us," said Chris Ullman, an SEC spokesman.

The fraudulent release said the company expected earnings of 14 cents to 17 cents a share in the second quarter. Analysts polled by First Call expect a profit of 22 cents a share.

The company has no plans to change the guidance or to issue an earnings warning for the quarter. Someone with the handle "hot like wassabe" posted the fake warning on Wednesday evening. A later version, posted by "f1oydian us" and slightly rewritten, contained a line reading, "this is joke you idiots."

Wall Street didn't seem to notice the false report, as Lucent rose $2.19 to close at $64.94.

Last April, PairGain stock shot up 50 percent in two hours after an employee posted a false news story that said the company was being acquired in a $1.35 billion deal. He posted that news on bulletin boards and also linked messages to a fake Bloomberg news Web site. The employee pleaded guilty to creating the site, was fined $93,000 and was sentenced to five years probation.

Such postings are a "form of electronic graffiti," said Richard Peterson, an analyst with Thompson Securities. "Those investors who are more experienced don't put much stock in postings on message boards and in chat rooms."

Yesterday, another company was charged by the SEC with distributing false press releases on the Web.

eConnect and the company's president, Thomas Hughes, 52, came under SEC fire for inflating the value of the company's stock.

The SEC filed a civil fraud suit that alleges eConnect, which owns Internet auction sites, said it had a unique licensing arrangement with hand-held computer maker Palm Inc.

As a result of the release, eConnect's stock skyrocked — reaching $21.88 on March 9, from $1.39 nine days earlier.

SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, at a conference in February, cautioned investors to be wary of stock tips received in Internet chat rooms. He said all investors should check out each and every company's fundamentals before committing any money to a stock purchase.

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