Stamford Land and Mano Sabnani reach 'amicable settlement'

The directors of Stamford Land have arrived at an "amicable settlement" with minority shareholder Mano Sabnani, whom the company had earlier sued for alleged defamation, the parties said last Saturday night.

Mr Sabnani, who filed his defence one week ago maintaining that the statements he had made about Stamford Land's corporate governance and investor relations were justified and fair comment, has since agreed to retract his comments.

"It was not Mr Sabnani's intention to cause any distress to the board and management, and he offers his sincere apologies for the distress caused," the company said in a joint statement in a Singapore Exchange (SGX) filing with Mr Sabnani last Saturday.

Among other things, the filing noted that Stamford Land is "one of the SGX companies that had enabled (Mr Sabnani) to achieve financial freedom over 30 years of careful value investing".

The filing also said Stamford Land has "agreed to move on and will continue to engage constructively with all shareholders".

Both parties thanked the SGX for facilitating the settlement and "bringing this unhappy episode to an end".

On Sept 7, the company and its directors filed a writ of summons against Mr Sabnani, alleging that he had published defamatory statements in a July 27 Facebook post, and in a letter published by The Business Times on July 31, in which he recounted the proceedings of Stamford Land's annual general meeting (AGM).

Later on Saturday night, the bourse operator's regulatory unit, SGX RegCo, welcomed the agreement between the parties as a "positive outcome".

It said: "SGX RegCo firmly believes in and encourages constructive and robust discussions between shareholders and directors during 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 also noted that this and other issues to do with conduct at AGMs will be covered in the best practices guide it is developing with the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) and the Singapore Institute of Directors.

Defamation suits against shareholders, while still uncommon, are happening more frequently in corporate Singapore.

In July, Asiatic Group sent a cease-and-desist letter to minority shareholder Jerry Low for alleged defamatory statements he had made in an open letter that called for a strategic review of Asiatic's businesses.

The matter was not pursued after Mr Low removed his statements from the public domain.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2018, with the headline 'Stamford Land and Mano Sabnani reach 'amicable settlement''. Print Edition | Subscribe