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SINGAPORE (Oct 6): Stamford Land Corp and Mano Sabnani (pictured), the shareholder it filed a lawsuit against less a month ago, have arrived at an amicable settlement of all differences between them, with both parties agreeing to “bring this unhappy episode to an end”.
In early Sept, the former senior financial journalist and investment banker was being sued by Stamford and its directors for publishing allegedly defamatory statements in a July 27 Facebook post and a July 31 letter to The Business Times, as well as having uttered defamatory statements at two annual general meetings in 2016 and 2018.
Last week, Sabnani filed his defence, arguing that his statements were fair comment and protected by qualified privileged as robust discussions between shareholders and the company’s management encourages transparency and accountability.
In the latest joint statement filed to the SGX on Saturday, Sabnani agreed to retract his “adverse comments” made on Facebook and BT, and apologised for comments that could have caused Stamford Land’s board “distress”.
Sabnani also expressed his appreciation to Stamford’s board and management for its achievement over the years, for having helped him “achieve financial freedom over 30 years of careful value investing”.
On Stamford Land's part, the group says it has agreed to move on, and will continue to engage constructively with all of its shareholders for the advancement of the interests, and the greater good, of Stamford Land.
“[Stamford Land and Sabnani] would like to thank SGX for facilitating the settlement,” said both parties.
The joint statement was first posted by Stamford Land on SGX's website at 6.02pm on Saturday, with the title "Joint Statement: Mr Manohar Sabnani apologises and thanks Stamford Land for its graciousness". The same statement was reposted at 9.23pm on the same day with the title "Joint Statement by Stamford Land and Mr Manohar Sabnani".
At 11.05pm, SGX notes that the settlement is a "positive outcome". "Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) firmly believes in and encourages constructive and robust discussions between shareholders and directors during annual general meetings (AGMs) and other shareholder meetings."
"While these meetings are subject to qualified privilege, it is important for all parties concerned to note that qualified privilege may not extend to comments that are published or quoted on social or mainstream media," SGX RegCo adds.
SGX RegCo and the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) and Singapore Institute of Directors are jointly developing a best practices guide on conduct at AGMs.
The announcement comes a day after this week’s issue of The Edge Singapore hit newsstands. In our cover story of issue 851, week of Oct 8, we discuss how minority investors are now increasingly worried about the risk of being sued for defamation by making comments in public, or through social media channels – Stamford Land’s defamation suit against Sabnani being a case in point.
Shares of Stamford Land last closed flat at 50 cents on Friday.