Noble Asks Court to Seal Its Defense Against Ex-CEO Suit

Noble Group Ltd. (NOBL), sued by former Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Leiman for withheld shares and a bonus, asked a Singapore court to seal information it says it will have to divulge to defend the lawsuit.

Noble may have to reveal details including names of clients, counter-parties and advisers who Leiman is alleged to have approached, Jeffrey Alam, the company’s group general counsel said in a Singapore High Court filing Sept. 24.

The disclosures could materially affect Noble’s share price, undermine its commercial interest and allow rivals to poach its clients, Alam said. A hearing on Noble’s request to seal the entire court file is scheduled for Oct. 9.

“It is plain and obvious that such information is not only confidential but also commercially sensitive,” according to Alam’s affidavit. The information may be used by Noble’s counter-parties to exert pressure on future negotiations, Alam said, adding that Leiman and the public’s interest won’t be prejudiced if the court papers are made private.

Noble spokesman Stephen Brown declined to comment as did Liew Yik Wee, a lawyer for Leiman.

Noble shares have risen 17 percent this year, compared with a 12 percent decline for Glencore International Plc (GLEN) in London and Olam International Ltd. (OLAM)’s 3.8 percent fall.

Noble Resources Ltd., the unit sued by Leiman, lost its appeal last month to throw out the lawsuit. Noble “may be left with no choice but to justify the decision” in dismissing Leiman, Alam said in court papers.

Resignation

Leiman was fired from Noble as the company was “unhappy” with his performance and shouldn’t be given the shares and bonus he’s seeking. Leiman, who disputes that he was dismissed, has said the allegation was made to create a false impression of him.

Leiman’s resignation was announced on Nov. 9, the same day Noble posted its first quarterly loss in about 14 years. He left for “personal reasons” and would stay on as an adviser, the company said then.

Leiman claims in his lawsuit that as the CEO, he was entitled to an annual discretionary bonus of 3 percent of Noble’s net income. His 2011 bonus works out to $12.9 million based on full-year net income of $431 million.

The case is Ricardo Leiman v. Noble Resources Ltd. S393/2012. Singapore High Court.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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