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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: June 18

General Mills' PR Ills

Somebody find Ashton Kutcher, General Mills (GIS - Get Report) got Punk'd.

The cereal-maker said on Wednesday that it was the subject of a prank press release that said President Obama had ordered a probe into the company's supply chain following recent recalls. The release was sent overnight on PR Newswire, a main distributor of corporate press announcements, and was picked up by some major news outlets including Reuters and Dow Jones before the hoax was revealed.

General Mills said it was investigating the matter and that "law enforcement is involved." PR Newswire - ironically lacking any PR skills whatsoever - issued a statement saying the release came from an unauthorized sender and offered no further comment. Also silent on the matter was Allen Funt, the former host of Candid Camera, who passed away over a decade ago.

General Mills

The unnerving part of the story is that any of the news organizations fooled by the phony release would have quickly deemed it a sham had they done the smallest amount of digging. Aside from misspelling the word "yogurt", the release reportedly carried a New York dateline even though General Mills is based in Minneapolis. Furthermore, it has a contact phone number located in New Zealand and lists the contact person as former CEO Steve Sanger.

In the end, General Mills shares did not tank, if that was the prankster's intention. But we are quite sure that nobody involved in this whole sorry episode will earn a spot on a Wheaties box.

Dumb-o-meter score: 90 -- Did anybody check the bogus press release for Tony the Tiger's paw prints?

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