A 17-year-old New York City financial guru has denied that his expertise trading penny stocks earned him $72 million—a vast sum that was reported to much fanfare over the weekend.
In a conversation with CNBC, Mohammed Islam, a senior at Stuyvesant High School, said he didn’t know where New York magazine got the astounding figure they claimed he had made on the stock market in a story about Islam published on Sunday.
Islam told CNBC during a pre-interview for an appearance on the network’s Halftime Report that “he had no idea where that dollar figure came from and that it’s not accurate.”
The New York story, written by Jessica Pressler, emphasized Islam’s proficiency with stock-picking by citing a rumor that went around Stuyvesant that he had made $72 million on Wall Street. Pressler stood by her claim, tweeting that she saw an eight-figure bank statement.
After seeing how much attention the New York figure was getting, Islam and a colleague canceled their appearance on Halftime Report. Referring to the magazine article, Islam said, “We expected a regular article about what we hope to do [after graduation]. The way we were portrayed is not who we are.”
Pressler opened her New York article with the line, “Rumors, on Wall Street, can be powerful.” As she and her subject learned today, rumors in the press can be equally powerful—and equally unpredictable.
Update 8:18am CT, Dec. 16: Islam has now confessed to the New York Observer that he and his friend fabricated the entire story of lucrative trading. Although he did run simulated trades in his investment club, he never made any real money, and he misled Pressler in the course of her reporting.
Photo via Francisco Gonzalez/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)