Greece: An easy target for hoax reports
9 May 2011
For several weeks, erroneous information about the Greek economy has been circulated to destabilise Athens. The latest hoax to date was Spiegel Online’s 6 May publication of a report about a secret Eurogroup meeting to discuss Greece’s exit from the euro. The question is: who stood to gain from the crime?
Washington, 17 April. A session held by The Institute of International Finance – which brings together banks, investors, monetary and financial institutions – was marked by major rumours. Their source, American economist Nouriel Roubini – the man that rose to fame when he successfully predicted the subprimes crisis who is also the President of RGE, an analysis firm that provides (expensive) advice to investors – was at pains to convince everyone that an imminent restructuring of Greek debt was on the way.
Announcing that his information was based on a series of meetings with the Greek Finance Minister, he hinted that such a deal had already been the subject of secret discussions, even though the Minister in question Georges Papaconstantinou had only a few minutes earlier made a speech in which he insisted there was no question of restructuring.
Roubini wants to orient the market: as he puts it, a bet on Greek default cannot fail to come in. And the fact is, if every one presumes this is the case, his forecast will become a reality… On the same day, Dow Jones Newswires cited anonymous sources that reproduced Roubini’s point of view in an piece entitled “Greece Proposes Repayment Extension Of Its Debt,” which added to the credibility of the American economist’s remarks. Then “the news” was picked up by the financial press.
It took several days to calm the ensuing storm on the capital markets. On Friday 6 May, the same process began all over again when the website of the German weekly Der Spiegel "revealed" that a ”secret meeting” of Eurozone finance ministers was to take place on the same day in Luxembourg. On the agenda, discussions of “Greece’s request” to exit the euro. No sources were cited, but that did not prevent press agencies from taking up the story, or a subsequent slide in the euro.
Rumours that are borderline criminal
The finance ministers of Europe’s G20 members (Germany, France, Italy and Spain), along with Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker and the President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet, were meeting to discuss the Greek adjustment plan with Finance Minister Papaconstantinou – in other words, a routine crisis meeting. ”We did not discuss a Greek exit from the Eurozone, because we believe this option would be stupid,” explained Juncker. Greek Prime Minister, Georges Papandreou, later insisted that the rumours were “borderline criminal.”
But who stands to gain from the crime? Investors who are currently holding anti-Athens positions. Especially those who have bought Greek credit default swaps (CDS), who will lose their investment if default does not happen. Or those who are indebted in Greece or who have withdrawn money from the country, who have every interest in a return to the drachma. The rumour mill is set to keep on turning.