· Decision of the Complaints Committee 04541-15 Banc de Binary v The Mail on Sunday
Summary of complaint
1. Banc de Binary complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail on Sunday had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in articles headlined “’Free money’ led me to bet away £8,500” and “Cyprus fines Banc de Binary as boss pleads Fifth Amendment”, published on 15 February 2015.
2. The column, by the newspaper’s “Readers’ Champion”, consisted of two articles about Banc de Binary, an online binary options trader. In the first article, the columnist responded to a reader who complained that they had been pressured by Banc de Binary to place bets, which resulted in his losing £8,500. The second article reported that Banc de Binary had been fined by the Cyprus Securities & Exchange Commission for offences that included giving false information to the regulator, and reported that a court in Reno, Nevada had also held that the company’s chief executive had broken US investor protection laws.
3. The complainant had initially denied that a court in Reno, Nevada, had held that Banc de Binary had broken US investor protection laws. It stated that there “had not even been a court case in Nevada”; this was “pure and simple fiction”. It said the company had never agreed to any illegal activity, nor had any US court found the company or its executives liable for any illegal activity. The complainant later accepted, however, that there were ongoing legal cases in Las Vegas, Nevada. It instead complained that the newspaper had claimed that Banc de Binary “cannot be trusted”, and that its system was rigged so that it was “virtually certain that you ended up a loser”. It maintained that it had innumerable satisfied customers.
4. The newspaper said that it had numerous court documents, which showed that Banc de Binary’s chief executive was a defendant in actions brought by the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in Nevada. The documents showed that the judge had granted summary judgment holding Banc de Binary’s chief executive personally liable for violations of Section 5 and 15a of the Securities Act, which had not been contested. In addition, the newspaper said that it had details of the fines imposed on Banc de Binary by the authorities in Cyprus for repeated offences, which included concealing information and providing false information. It noted that the columnist had written about Banc de Binary previously, and the company had made complaints about the coverage, but had failed to demonstrate any significant inaccuracy. It said, in this instance, the columnist had expressed some personal opinions in the articles, but considered that its readers could distinguish comment from fact.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
6. A US judge, in proceedings brought in the District of Nevada, had granted a motion against Banc de Binary’s chief executive awarding summary judgment in relation to the claims brought against him for violations of Section 5 of the Securities Act 1933 and Section 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act 1934. It was therefore not inaccurate for the newspaper to state that a US court had held that the chief executive had broken US investor protection laws. It was a matter of concern that the complainant had initially sought to contend that there were no legal proceedings being brought in Nevada.
7. Furthermore, the newspaper had been entitled to publish the columnist’s opinion that Banc de Binary’s bonus system, which meant that customers had to trade 20 times the amount of money in their account before they could make a withdrawal, had made it “virtually certain” that the customer would “end up a loser”. The article had included a statement from the company, which made clear its position that the customer had “sole discretion regarding any involvement with his or her trading account”, and stated that some of the reader’s bets had shown a profit.
8. The newspaper had also been entitled to publish the columnist’s opinion that Banc de Binary “cannot be trusted”. This opinion was clearly based on the columnist’s analysis of the trading advice given to the reader by Banc de Binary staff, and was further supported by the fact that the company had previously been fined by the Cyprus Securities & Exchange Commission and was facing further legal action in the US.
9. The newspaper had not failed to take care over the accuracy of the article, and the complainant had not identified any significant inaccuracies or misleading statements that required correction under the terms of Clause 1.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 16/07/2015
Date decision issued: 28/10/2015
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