Dude, where's your declaration of interest? Ashton Kutcher in media storm

Ashton Kutcher made a name for himself by pulling the wool over celebrities' eyes in the mischievous MTV show Punk'd, but the Hollywood actor may soon find himself under federal investigation if it is proven that he attempted to do the same to readers of the US magazine Details.

Charlie Sheen's replacement in the hit TV show Two and a Half Men has been accused of plugging media companies in a special online edition of the magazine, without making it clear that he has financial interests in several of the firms.

The Dude, Where's My Car? star, who has made headlines for sharing too much information with his 7.5 million Twitter followers, was asked to guest edit "The Social Issue" for the magazine's September edition in which he recommends and profiles a series of technology companies.

But it has emerged he is an investor in several of these firms, including the social networking website Four-square, the social magazine app Flipboard and the accommodation website Airbnb, which could be viewed as a conflict of interest by US financial authorities.

Details, owned by Condé Nast, has claimed it did disclose Kutcher's interests by including a line in his editor's letter which says the actor "puts his money where his mouth is, backing many of the companies he champions here". But questions remain over whether the full extent of Kutcher's investments was made clear to readers, as legally required in editorial content.

"If you're out there promoting individual products that you have a specific investment in, it needs to be disclosed," Richard Cleland, of the Federal Trade Commission, told The New York Times.

"If you have a significant economic investment that is not otherwise apparent, that may potentially affect the credibility of your endorsement, and I see that as a potential problem." Mr Cleland declined to confirm if the FTC will launch a probe into the claims against Kutcher, but did say it was a "possibility" that "a case like this could be investigated".

Mr Kutcher could also fall foul of the Securities and Exchange Commission if it is also established he knew the firms he promoted intended to raise funds by floating on the stock market in the near future. This would breach a SEC rule that stipulates these companies should not be discussed during what is known as a "quiet period". The SEC declined to comment when contacted by The Independent yesterday.

"If you read Ashton's editors' letter, you'll see he succeeded in his mission to get people to talk about and even criticise this social issue. I stand by how we communicated Ashton's involvement with some of the companies included in our coverage and remain extremely proud of the work we did on this project," Dan Peres the editor of Details, said.

Ashton Kutcher's production company did not respond to requests for comment about the allegations.

Kutcher's investments

Skype

This venture took Kutcher from celebrity dabbler to serious investor. Marc Andreessen persuaded him to invest in 2009 when the company was valued at $2.75bn. Two years later, it was sold to Microsoft for $8bn.



Hipmunk

The travel website startup reportedly received $1m from angel investors including Kutcher last year. It was promoted in the "Generation Next" section in the online magazine he edited for Details.



Flipboard

Kutcher reportedly funded online social magazine to the tune of $10.5m last year.



Airbnb

The website matching backpackers with people renting spare rooms is thought to be his latest investment.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker