NEW YORK, Nov 6 (Reuters) - A new video shows a man accused of impersonating a Wall Street Journal reporter in an effort to uncover information from prominent short-seller Muddy Waters and allegedly learn more about its strategy toward French retailer Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA.
Groupe Casino, as the supermarket chain operator is also known, on Monday affirmed its denial of wrongdoing in its dealings with Muddy Waters and founder Carson Block.
They had accused Casino in December 2015 of using accounting shenanigans and excessive leverage to exaggerate its health.
Short-sellers sell borrowed shares, hoping to repurchase them later at lower prices. Muddy Waters and firms like it often issue negative research about the companies they short.
The video, which Reuters reviewed, relates to a Nov. 1 petition in which Muddy Waters asked a New York state judge to force Alphabet Inc’s Google to identify who owns two Gmail accounts linked to alleged spying about Casino.
Muddy Waters accused “John Does 1-5” of impersonating Journal reporter William Horobin and an investigator at French securities regulator Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF) to learn of Block’s thoughts and whereabouts.
The video depicts an Oct. 30 meeting at a Manhattan hotel that Muddy Waters said was requested the man claiming to be Horobin, but who the Journal said was Jean-Charles Brisard, a French security and intelligence consultant.
Brisard has appeared often on television and the man in the video looks like him as pictured on his website. (jean-charles-brisard.com/)
He could not immediately be reached by Reuters for comment. Brisard declined to comment to the Journal on whether he had appeared in the video or worked for Casino.
In the video, the imposter acknowledged not being Horobin, but telling Block he impersonated the reporter “because I want to meet you. There’s no other ways to meet you.”
“So Casino has not paid you to do this?” Block asked.
“No, no, not at all, not at all,” the imposter responded.
After Block suggested “it seems kind of obvious” what he had in mind, the imposter walked away.
“Casino already suffered several unfair attacks from Muddy Waters,” a Casino spokeswoman said on Monday. “This claim is another feeble attack to destabilize the group.”
Block said in an email: “The company’s use of investigators to impersonate journalists and government officials shows management’s disregard for ethics and rules, and further reeks of desperation.”
The Journal has said its reporter Horobin made no inquiries to Muddy Waters. AMF has declined to discuss its probe into activity by Casino and Muddy Waters, following Block’s criticisms of the retailer. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Dominique Vidalon in Paris; additional reporting by Pascale Denis in Paris, editing by G Crosse)