Novagold says potential class action amateurish, ignorant

Donlin gold project. (Image courtesy of Novagold.)

Canada’s Novagold (TSX, NYSE: NG), which is suing short-selling firm J Capital Research (JCAP) for defamation, said a US law firm’s potential attempt to launch a class suit against the company on alleged securities fraud would be based on “malicious and false information”.

Lawyers at Hagens Berman and Portnoy said this week they were investigating whether Novagold had misled investors about the viability of its Donlin gold project, in Alaska.

Novagold said the move by San Francisco-based Hagens Berman appeared to be entirely based on JCAP’s “tapestry of deceit” as well as “false and misleading statements” about the company and its 50-50 development partner in the project, Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD).

In a report issued on May 28, JCAP accuses the gold junior of “systematically” misleading investors about the proposed gold mine over the last 15 years.

NovaGold and Barrick’s Donlin project, with measured and indicated resources of about 39 million ounces of gold is considered one of the largest open-pit gold deposits in Alaska.

JCAP, a company founded in China a decade ago that usually targets overvalued media and tech companies for short-selling, said the Donlin Gold project would “never be built” and “in short, is a stock promote, not a mining plan.”

“Insignificant” asset

JCAP backed its claim by saying that Donlin’s “insignificance” can be proven by Barrick’s decision to not include the project in its new 10-year production plan, which is aimed at becoming the world’s most valued gold company.

Novagold’s chairperson, Thomas Kaplan, said Hagens Berman’s solicitation of shareholders was based on a “fundamentally flawed report,” a move somehow expected in a “dirty game.”

“Even with Novagold’s line-by-line factual rebuttal available to them, the law firm did nothing more than repeat a slapdash mixture of errors of fact, falsehoods, and discredited assertions,” Kaplan said.

While Novagold would not be issuing responses to “every dart aimed at it”, he said the company highlighted Hagens Berman’s press release, because it was “emblematic of the amateurishness and abject ignorance of the public statements made recently about Novagold by JCAP and now repeated by others.”

Kaplan encouraged owners to assess whether they had suffered damage from the reports and to seek advice regarding potential redress available to them from the “real perpetrator of wrongs: JCAP.”

Novagold and Barrick reopened the Donlin camp in June, following a two-month hiatus brought by measures to help reduce the spread of covid-19.

The companies anticipate that most of the planned program, aimed at confirming recent geologic modelling concepts and testing potential extensions of high-grade zones, will be completed by the end of the year.