MANHATTAN (CN) – A “habitual violator of the federal securities laws” is waging an illicit campaign to hijack an oil and gas firm active in Tasmania and take control of its $1 billion in assets, the company’s CEO claims in Federal Court.
Malcolm Bendall, CEO of Empire Energy Corporation International, says the campaign waged by lead defendant Noble Trenham and his associates is “based on false, misleading and defamatory statements to shareholders.”
Bendall, a citizen of Australia, claims that Trenham and his cohorts “have falsely asserted, among other things, that plaintiff Malcolm Bendall… ‘is a fugitive in London.'”
“In his destructive, false, and highly erratic language, defendant Trenham has stated, ‘Is this any way to run an American public company? [No] doubt you will agree with me [it] is not,'” Bendall says, citing a solicitation sent to Empire Energy’s public shareholders. (Brackets as in complaint.)
Bendall says Empire holds an exploration license from Tasmania, for significant tracts of land, which have been independently valued as worth more than $1 billion.
He claims that since 2010, Trenham, of Pasadena, Calif., and co-defendants Diane Lawton, First Global Capital Ventures, Empire Ventures LLC, and Smart Win International LCC have “engaged in this national campaign to seize a public company without any compliance with the federal securities laws. In reality, defendant Trenham and his associates are attempting to steal an asset valued at more than one billion dollars – Empire Energy’s license to development oil and gas resources in Tasmania – in complete defiance of relevant law. As later allegations in this complaint will reveal, defendant Trenham is a reckless corporate raider who has previously sought to hijack other public companies and, unless restrained, may well do so again,” according to the complaint.
Bendall describes Trenham as “a recidivist securities law violator who in March 2010 was permanently barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (‘FINRA’) from association with any member of FINRA.” He says FINRA found that Trenham had “‘circumvented’ the ‘anti-money laundering regulations pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act [to] require member firms [of FINRA] to report … cash transactions in excess of $10,000.'” (Brackets and ellipsis in complaint.)
Bendall claims that through his latest campaign Trenham has been able to secure direct or indirect control of at least 10 percent of Empire Energy’s common shares.
Bendall seeks injunctive relief and damages of $1 billion, alleging violations of federal regulations on proxy solicitation and tender offers.
He is represented by Paul Batista.