Sigma Lithium (TSXV: SGML) has taken legal action by filing a lawsuit against its former co-chief executive officer. The company claims that the ex-executive stole valuable trade secrets with the intention of undermining Sigma’s efforts to sell itself.
This lawsuit, filed recently in a federal court in Manhattan, sheds light on a dispute involving Calvyn Gardner, the former co-CEO, and Ana Cabral-Gardner, his divorcing co-CEO who remains at the helm of the company. Even Gardner’s daughter-in-law, Luisa Valim, is implicated in the alleged misconduct.
Following the news, the firm’s shares dropped around 3.6% on the day.
Sigma Lithium, headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, and primarily operating in Brazil, commands a substantial market value of approximately $5.07 billion. The lawsuit asserts that Cabral-Gardner and Gardner jointly control a significant stake of 44% in the company through their fund, A10 Investimentos. Within this partnership, Cabral-Gardner possesses a 76% share, while Gardner holds a 24% share.
The lawsuit contends that Valim, seeking to manipulate her father-in-law’s position in the divorce proceedings, devised a plan to pilfer proprietary information. The goal was both to gain favor with Gardner and exact revenge.
The lawsuit further states that shortly after Valim’s departure from Sigma in May, she managed to access and share around 80,000 confidential documents from a secured data room. Bank of America, which was facilitating discussions with potential buyers for Sigma, had organized access to this room.
Bank of America declined to comment on the ongoing legal matter.
The documents Valim allegedly misappropriated contained crucial industrial and mining insights that underpinned Sigma’s competitive edge in the lithium mining and processing sector. The company characterizes these documents as its “secret sauce” that sets it apart from its rivals.
Sigma contends that Gardner and Valim’s actions were deliberately aimed at disrupting any potential buyout. A key piece of evidence cited is Valim’s reported claim to an A10 partner during a flight on July 1 that their scheme had effectively terminated the merger and acquisition process.
Sigma’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and the return of the misappropriated property. Cabral-Gardner emphasized in a recent interview on July 28 that Sigma is focused on enhancing its distinct environmentally competitive stance within the global supply chain.
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