Iceberg: ‘Not the first time we acted as whistleblower against Noble’
24 March 2015
Business Times Singapore
OBSCURE outfit Iceberg Research said in its third report on Noble Group that this is not the first time that it is acting as a whistleblower against the commodities trader. Referring to the bankruptcy of Danish bunker supplier OW Bunker in 2014, it claimed that a member of Iceberg had in 2013 “reported Noble’s commercial practices in Singapore to the Maritime Port Authority (MPA)”. It alleged that “Noble had been associated with some less than reputable local companies” and that while “the decision was taken by MPA not to renew (Noble’s bunkering) licence”, Noble was not fined. Iceberg also said that its member later informed MPA that the supposed “illegal activities” had continued, Noble was allegedly “still involved”, and the unnamed “local companies” in question had become major bunker suppliers in Singapore. Those “local companies and people that our colleague had reported to the MPA were directly responsible for the fraudulent bankruptcy of OW Bunker” in 2014, Iceberg claimed. “Had the MPA acted on the information sent to them, this high-profile bankruptcy… could certainly have been avoided.” OW Bunker, the world’s biggest bunker supplier and Denmark’s second-biggest listed company by revenue, filed for bankruptcy in November 2014, blaming fraud by two senior employees at a Singapore-based unit, Dynamic Oil Trading. It estimated the alleged fraud to be worth US$125 million, and also reported a US$150 million risk management loss. OW Bunker went into liquidation after its banks refused to extend credit. Noble, which has filed a suit in Hong Kong, said in a Singapore Exchange statement on Monday in response to Iceberg’s claims that “we reject their allegations as inaccurate, unreliable and misleading”. The MPA did not respond to Iceberg’s allegations by press time.Noble sues ex-employee over ‘damaging claims’
Wong Wei Han
24 March 2015
The Straits Times
Former credit analyst said to have masterminded Iceberg Research blog
NOBLE Group is suing a former credit analyst said to have masterminded the Iceberg Research blog that made damaging claims against the commodities giant.
The firm told the Singapore Exchange (SGX) yesterday that it has initiated proceedings in Hong Kong against Mr Arnaud Vagner, a Seychelles-based firm called Enlighten Ace and any of its associates.
Noble had earlier provided information about the person behind the reports but did not give a name until yesterday.
Its move comes two days after Iceberg released a third report on Noble, this one raising red flags about the company’s governance and debt levels.
Noble’s statement to SGX called Iceberg’s claims “inaccurate, unreliable and misleading”.
“As a public company we support responsible research. However, Iceberg are not the independent research house they claim to be. Their actions, and their timing, have been calculated primarily to inflict damage rather than to facilitate the distribution of research,” Noblesaid.
The company is suing Mr Vagner and Enlighten Ace for “damages for conspiracy”, a Hong Kong High Court writ of summons shows. Mr Vagner, a Hong Kong resident, must respond to the writ within 14 days.
Noble is also seeking an injunction to restrain Mr Vagner from publishing further “misleading statements”.
Iceberg told The Straits Times last night: “We consulted our lawyer and we are extremely confident.
“Iceberg’s research is based on public information released by Noble themselves. Noble read the third report and has been unable to answer. They cannot find anything as our arguments are very straightforward.
“They struggle to explain the true situation of their financials and are under huge pressure.”
Yesterday’s development was the latest twist in the exchange between Noble and Iceberg that began on Feb 15, when Iceberg issued its first report.
Two further reports have been released, all claiming that Noble is using accounting loopholes to fabricate asset value and profit in order to hide losses and debts.
Noble’s statement yesterday threw more light on the former employee behind the attacks.
Mr Vagner joined the firm in April 2011 as a credit analyst in charge of chartering. His employment was terminated in June 2013 due to “misconduct” and “disruptive behaviour”, Noble said.
Mr Vagner was also said to have told a current Noble employee last year that he was working with short sellers and preparing reports to “blow up” the firm.
He was also the contact person for Enlighten Ace, the company that registered the Iceberg blog, Noble added.
The Iceberg reports have shaken investor sentiment and sent Noble shares down by as much as 30 per cent since mid-February. They hit a 52-week low of 85 cents last Thursday but news last week that two institutional investors had raised their stakes, and yesterday’s legal action, seem to have restored some confidence in the counter.
Noble shares closed up 3.5 cents, or 4 per cent, at 91 cents yesterday.