Chinese firms go on the attack against reports
Updated: 2011-09-30 16:25
By Ariel Tung (China Daily)
NEW YORK - Two US-listed Chinese companies are blaming a website that publishes investment ideas and research on Chinese companies for making fraudulent allegations in what company officials call a manipulative scheme to drive down stock prices.
The finger pointing comes a day after the US Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement chief said the Department of Justice is investigating the accounting practices at Chinese companies after several high-profile scandals this year.
The two Chinese companies - Deer Consumer Products, which makes household appliances, and Silvercorp Metals, a silver mining company - are suing Alfredlittle.com because the two firms both independently accuse the site of fabricating information. They also are accusing the site and its editors of disseminating the information because they are short-selling the stocks and would profit from a decline in stock prices.
On Aug 29, Deer, which is listed on NASDAQ, served the proprietors of the site a subpoena via e-mail in which the site has 30 days to respond.
Last week, Silvercorp filed a lawsuit against the site as well as the operators of Chinastockwatch.com for publishing "false, defamatory and fraudulent statements".
Simon Moore, managing editor at Alfredlittle.com, which allegedly is supported by analysts and investors based in China, said in an e-mail that anyone should have the right to present opinions and that Alfredlittle.com will "fight any lawsuits vigorously to defend our contributors' rights to free speech".
Moore denied that Alfredlittle.com was shorting either of the company's stocks. He said the website does not have a financial interest in any of the site's reports. All of its reports are provided for free.
According to Deer officials, Alfredlittle.com has asked the appliances company to dismiss the lawsuit. Arnold Staloff, chairman of Deer's audit committee, said the company is going to pursue the lawsuit "very aggressively".
Deer attorney Robert Knuts said an outcome will be determined later this year.
In March, Alfredlittle.com published two reports alleging Deer management of misappropriating $12 million in land purchases. Staloff said Deer has lost approximately $300 million in market value since the allegations began.
The accusations from Silvercorp are quite similar. Officials from the company claim misleading information against the company were posted by an unnamed contributor on Alfredlittle.com. Silvercorp said another anonymous letter alleging fraud at the company was published on Chinastockwatch.com.
Feng Rui, CEO at Silvercorp, said in a letter to shareholders that "Silvercorp will vigorously pursue all legal actions to protect our shareholders' value".
The blame game and the anonymous letters claiming fraud at Chinese companies have added to a great deal of turmoil for Chinese companies, many saying they are being unfairly taken down from the controversy.
Earlier this year, Carson Block of Muddy Waters Research accused Sino-Forest, a Chinese tree plantation operation, of accounting fraud. The Ontario Securities Commission suspended the company, whose stock plunged almost 70 percent in June, from Aug 26.
Block revealed in a Twitter post on Sept 13 that Muddy Waters was shorting Silvercorp. Silvercorp's share prices fell 20 percent to C$6.20 shortly after Block's announcement.
On Thursday, Silvercorp was priced at $7.85 on the New York Stock Exchange in afterhours trading. Prior to the fraud allegations, the company was listed at $8.50.
Silvercorp has hired KPMG Forensic to investigate the company's cash flows and production volumes to counter the fraud allegations.