The Adani Group appeared to have manipulated several entries about itself on Wikipedia in the wake of allegations of stock manipulation by United States-based firm Hindenburg Research, an article on the online encyclopedia’s independent newspaper has alleged.
The allegations come amid a continuing downward spiral in Adani stocks as the ports-to-power conglomerate struggles to reassure investors. On Thursday morning, five out of seven Adani Group stocks were trading in the red on the BSE Sensex. Adani Enterprises and Adani Ports, however, registered gains in early trading.
The article on the online newspaper, The Signpost, alleged that over 40 sockpuppets, or fake accounts, and undeclared paid editors created or revised nine articles on the Adani family and its businesses. These accounts were later either banned or blocked, the article said.
The Signpost claimed that many of these accounts edited several of the articles and added “non-neutral material or puffery”.
It added: “A declared paid editor, using a company IP address, completely rewrote the Adani Group article. Others removed warnings about conflict-of-interest editing. Some created articles by unusual methods that circumvented Wikipedia’s quality control systems.”
The newspaper also alleged that Hatchens, a user tasked with reviewing articles to be created on Wikipedia, was banned for “abusing his position” and “possibly corruptly approving several Adani articles”. It said that this was the most concerning finding of the article.
The newspaper noted that the conglomerate’s founder Gautam Adani lost $67 billion (over Rs 5.54 lakh crore) of his net worth since the allegations resurfaced. “Did he and his employees also try to ‘con’ Wikipedia readers with non-neutral PR versions of related Wikipedia articles?” it asked. “Almost certainly they did.”
Nate Anderson, the founder of Hindenburg Research, shared the findings of the report on Twitter on Tuesday. He said the article showed “how Adani systematically manipulated its Wikipedia entries using sock puppet accounts, undisclosed paid editors and removing evidence of conflicts of interest”.
The Adani Group has been under the scanner since Hindenburg Research on January 24 accused it of pulling off the “largest con in corporate history”.
A report by the American firm claimed that the conglomerate has over several decades been involved in stock manipulation, accounting fraud, used offshore shells for money laundering and siphoned money from listed companies.
In a major fallout of the report, the Adani Group’s flagship company Adani Enterprises was also forced to call off its Rs 20,000 crore follow-on public offering that was meant to repay debt.
The conglomerate has denied the allegations, claiming that the report’s “principal objective” was to derail the share offer. It also stated that the firm “has not published this report for any altruistic reasons but purely out of selfish motives and in flagrant breach of applicable securities and foreign exchange laws”.
Nevertheless, Adani Group stocks have fallen sharply since the allegations surfaced. On Monday, the combined value of the conglomerate’s companies fell below the $100 billion mark (over Rs 8.27 lakh crore).