of Noble Group chairman Elman rejects improper accounting allegations (And who is this Arnaud Vagner?)
Noble Group chairman Elman rejects improper accounting allegations. Okay, that is just proper.
"As the main shareholder of the company, I am not going to shoot myself in the foot," said Mr Elman. Uhm. I don't know. I am just kind of frowning when I read that part of the article. The truth about one's company should not depend whether or not one is the main shareholder of the company.
An overwhelming majority of shareholders of Noble Group, which has denied allegations of improper accounting, approved the company's financial statements for last year.From Channel NewsAsia, "Noble Group shareholders back financial statements".
The resolution was backed by 99.92 per cent of votes at Noble's annual shareholders' meeting in Singapore on Friday (Apr 17), which Reuters attended.
Before the vote, Noble's chairman Mr Richard Elman said he rejected all allegations made by Iceberg Research as inaccurate, unreliable and misleading, in his first public comments on the issue.
"We consider the Iceberg matter finished," said Mr Elman, adding that nothing Noble has done has violated accounting rules. The company is drawing a line on the matter and remains focused on running the business, he said.
Last week, Noble had also rejected allegations by Muddy Waters on its cash flow, debt levels and manipulation of financial records.
US-based short seller Muddy Waters said it was "short" Noble and questioned several past transactions and the way they were accounted.
Among the allegations on what it called a "complex and opaque" company: "Noble seems to exist solely to borrow and burn cash ... Noble management manipulates financials and investors when the pressure is on."
"I feel grieved about what happened in the last two months," said Mr Elman, who is Noble's biggest shareholder, owning about a fifth of its shares. He added that the company is in robust financial health.
Mr Elman interrupted several shareholders when they asked questions at the meeting, including one about its Australian unit Yancoal, in which the company took a major writedown in its last quarter.
He told one shareholder that this meeting was not about what others said about Noble and reiterated there was nothing wrong with the accounts.
"As the main shareholder of the company, I am not going to shoot myself in the foot," said Mr Elman.
At the end of trade on Friday, Noble's share price rose by 1.14 per cent to close at 88.5 cents.
Noble Group Ltd chairman Richard Elman rejected all allegations made by previously unknown firm Iceberg Research as inaccurate, unreliable and misleading, in his first public comments on the issue.From Business Times, "Noble Group chairman Elman rejects improper accounting allegations".
Nothing that Noble has done has violated rules, Mr Elman said at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Singapore on Friday, which Reuters attended. “We consider the Iceberg matter finished.”
Mr Elman said the company, one of Asia’s biggest commodities traders, is drawing a line on the matter and remains focused on running the business. “I feel grieved about what happened in the last two months,” he said, adding that Noble is in a robust financial condition.
Mr Elman is Noble’s founder and owns about a fifth of the company’s shares.
Noble shares were up 1.7 per cent at 0239 GMT on Friday, erasing the previous day’s fall.
The shares have slumped by as much as 32 per cent, or S$2.56 billion, since mid-February after Iceberg Research alleged Noble had inflated asset values by billions of dollars through aggressive accounting. Noble has rejected the allegations.
The Singapore-listed shares have also been hit by a quarterly loss.
Noble has linked Iceberg to an employee it fired in 2013 and started legal action against him in Hong Kong.
On a separate news, this article from Wall Street Journal also featured a mysterious Arnaud Vagner, allegedly a former employee of Noble Group who was also named as one of the defendants.
The string of allegations lobbed this year at commodities trader Noble Group Ltd.N21.SG +1.14% by little-known Iceberg Research has raised many questions, including – what is Iceberg Research?From Wall Street Journal, "Who is Arnaud Vagner? Noble Video Gives a Clue".
Unlike Glaucus Research Group or Muddy Waters—which for years have published negative research on companies in Asia—few people had heard of Iceberg Research until it published a report on Feb. 15 questioning Noble’s accounting practices. The company’s Singapore-listed shares the next day fell as much as 10% and are down 23% since the report.
Noble has said it “completely rejects” the allegations and this month filed a lawsuit in Hong Kong alleging a “conspiracy to injure” the company. It named as one of the defendants a former employee, Arnaud Vagner, whom it says joined the company in March 2011 and whose employment was terminated in June 2013. At the time, Iceberg responded by saying it was confident that Noble’s charge had no “legal merits”.
That raised another question. Who’s Arnaud Vagner?
A Noble branding video viewed by The Wall Street Journal that appears to have been published on YouTube in February 2013 gives some insight into Mr. Vagner’s time at the company.
The 5-minute video features Noble founder Richard Elman, chief executive Yusuf Alireza and some employees extolling Noble’s culture, values and future.
“We have clearly intelligent people, dedicated people, passionate people. I think it’s the passion to succeed, the passion to create new and interesting businesses, people that share the dream and people that are willing to go that extra mile to succeed,” Mr. Elman says.
Mr. Vagner also has a speaking role. Around the 1-minute mark, a person identified as Arnaud Vagner turns towards the camera, remarking Noble offers “a new challenge every day.” Dressed in a suit and tie, he briefly throws a smile at the camera as he turns his back and walks away.
Mr. Elman speaks next.
Noble in a conference call with analysts in February had characterized the person behind the Iceberg reports as a “disgruntled junior ex-employee.”
In an 11-page rebuttal to Iceberg’s claims published on its website this month, it said the “blogger” it believed to be behind the accusations was judged poorly at work and “told he was in the bottom 10% of his group,” in a 2012 performance assessment.
It is unclear whether Mr. Vagner was deemed a poor performer before or after he was included in the promotional video. A Noble spokesman declined to comment.
When asked by The Wall Street Journal to confirm if he is the Arnaud Vagner that appears in the video, Iceberg in an emailed response reiterated its previous stance that it would not confirm the identities of any of its individual members, a response it has given previously to Noble’s characterization of his work performance at Noble.