Noble Group Sues Former Credit Analyst After Iceberg Reports

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Noble Group Ltd., Asia’s largest commodity trader by revenue, sued a credit analyst it says it fired in 2013 for conspiracy to injure the company by anonymously spreading false and misleading information this year.

Arnaud Vagner and a Seychelles company Enlighten Ace Ltd. conspired to drive Noble’s share price down with the information, the trading company said in a lawsuit filed Monday at Hong Kong’s High Court.

Noble earlier Monday said reports published by a group that calls itself Iceberg Research are “inaccurate, unreliable and misleading,” and said that it would sue. An unverified twitter account for Iceberg Research today stated that the legal action doesn’t constitute a rebuttal for its third report on Noble. A man who answered the doorbell at the Hong Kong address the Noble writ gave as Vagner’s said he wasn’t Vagner and he wouldn’t say if he knew him.

Hong Kong-based Noble’s shares have fallen about 25 percent in Singapore since a first Iceberg report that alleged accounting irregularities was released on Feb. 15. A third report was released over the weekend.

“Iceberg are not the independent research house they claim to be,” Noble said in its earlier statement. “Their actions, and their timing, have been calculated primarily to inflict damage rather than to facilitate the distribution of research.”

Shares Climb

Iceberg’s website contains no analyst names or links to research notes, apart from reports on Noble. Iceberg has said it doesn’t have any position in Noble’s securities and doesn’t work in tandem with funds. In an e-mailed response to questions, Iceberg said it stood by its report, which it said is based on public information. Iceberg declined to identify who is behind the group.

Noble is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction restraining the defendants from publishing “any further false and misleading statements” about the trader.

Noble shares climbed 2.9 percent to 90 Singapore cents at the 2:52 p.m. local time. The stock is the worst performer this year in Singapore’s benchmark Straits Times Index, which is little changed over the same period.

Vagner had been employed by Noble as a credit analyst on April 18, 2011, and terminated for cause on June 6, 2013, according to the writ.

The case is Noble Group Ltd. And Arnaud Vagner, Enlighten Ace Ltd., HCA594/2015 in the Hong Kong Court of First Instance.