(This Feb 9 story corrects paragraph 12 to read "r/TSLA" instead of "r/TESLA" subreddit.)
By Bhargav Acharya
(Reuters) - A Reddit user who claimed in a post a month ago to be a Tesla Inc insider and knew about the electric car maker's purchase of bitcoin said on Tuesday that his assertions were not true.
The user's original post https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/kpc8gw/you_heard_it_here_first_our_company_just_bought stating Tesla was buying bitcoin drew little attention when it appeared Jan. 2. But it received a second look Wednesday, a day after the electric carmaker and its CEO Elon Musk disclosed a $1.5 billion investment in the cryptocurrency that sent bitcoin to fresh highs.
Reuters could not independently verify the user’s identity or whether his initial or subsequent claims were accurate.
Tesla did not respond to an email to its press office.
“I am a software dev working at R&D at Tesla in California, over the past 72 hours our company bought 24701 BTC at an average price of 33142$,” the user with the handle TSLAinsider posted on Reddit last month.
“I have no idea what will happen once this reaches the newspapers but I think the price will explode even more,” the user wrote.
“I told you so,” TSLAinsider wrote on Monday after the Tesla news on bitcoin. “I got laughed at and downvoted.”
The user told the New York Post late on Tuesday that he is in fact a prankster from Germany.
“If you want to know the truth: I am a young German guy and I was on Acid while I did this post in the last month," the Post quoted him as saying. “I had this afflatus that Elon is going to buy Bitcoin, so I created this trollpost.”
The user, who told the Post his name was Hendrik, told Reuters that the information in the New York Post article was correct.
Tesla said it started purchasing bitcoin in January. The New York Post added that with the timeline on the Reddit post, Tesla would have had to start buying bitcoin in late December.
Moderators in r/TSLA, a subreddit dedicated to posts on the electric carmaker's technology and stock price, previously appeared to remove the post https://www.reddit.com/r/TSLA/comments/kpcjrh/you_heard_it_here_first_our_company_just_bought. It was left up in r/bitcoin, where the cryptocurrency is discussed.
Reddit posters were revisiting the post on Tuesday in the light of Tesla's disclosure. "Thanks for the heads up Elon," noted one poster, Valoured, on Tuesday. "Send me a PM (Private Message) before you make your next move please."
The power of social media users on forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets to band together and move prices has come into focus in recent weeks, after a surge of retail buying helped fuel wild rides in shares of GameStop Corp and other so-called meme stocks. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week vowed to protect investors, but said financial market regulators needed to fully understand the recent trading frenzy involving GameStop Corp and other retail stocks before taking any action.
Tesla said in its annual report published Monday that the decision to move nearly 8% of its reserves into bitcoin was part of its broad investment policy as a company aimed at diversifying and maximizing its returns on cash, including holding gold.
(Additional reporting by Chris Prentice and Ira Iosebashvili; Writing by Ira Iosebashvili; Editing by Megan Davies, Steve Orlofsky and Edward Tobin)