ENERGY & OFFSHORE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Man behind Noble's downfall speaks up

Arnaud Vagner confirms his link to Iceberg Research to challenge Noble’s restructuring.

In a phone interview with Bloomberg, Noble Group former employee Arnaud Vagner has confirmed his link to Iceberg Research, the group that launched critical attacks against the company that served as a hard blow to its reputation and financials.

Iceberg Research began its assault on Noble’s accounting practices in 2015. After writing down billions of dollars, including on contract valuations questioned by Iceberg, Noble’s market capitalisation stands at US$115m. It defaulted on its bonds and now faces a do-or-die struggle to keep going with a US$3.5b debt-for-equity rescue that will hand control to creditors.

Also read: Noble losses narrowed to US$128.34m in Q2

Vagner said that he had to disclose his identity because he’s trying to organize a legal challenge to Noble’s restructuring plan. His intended legal challenge, which he has invited others to join, will be easier if he waives his anonymity. “Bad companies have to die,” he added.

Noble is suing Vagner and a Seychelles-registered company in Hong Kong, accusing both of conspiring to damage the company by anonymously spreading false and misleading information. Vagner denies the allegations in the suit, which is ongoing.

During his time as a senior credit analyst at Noble in Hong Kong, Vagner revealed that his work consisted of writing reports that showed the company had proper risk controls in place. He added that only public information was used in writing his Iceberg reports.

Also read: Goldilocks backs Noble's restructuring plan

The former credit analyst is also turning his attention to regulators, who he said were too slow to respond, and to the company’s banks, of which there have been several dozen over the years.

For Vagner, the shareholders meeting on 27 August that will decide the restructuring of the company is not the end of the story. “If the restructuring is successful, the new Noble isn’t viable and they won’t be able to pay their interest,” he said. “I hope that it will go down.”

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