KiOR facing lawsuit alleging company violated federal securities laws, misled investors

Published 12:13am Thursday, August 22, 2013

NATCHEZ — Alternative fuel company KiOR faces a class action lawsuit filed by a law firm alleging the company violated federal securities laws and misled investors about the timing of production and the production capabilities of its Mississippi facility.

In the court filing dated Monday, the lawsuit — filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas — seeks to represent a class of those who purchased KiOR securities between Aug. 14, 2012 and Aug. 7, 2013.

Named as defendants are KiOR President and Chief Executive Officer Fred Cannon and Chief Financial Officer John Karnes.

The lawsuit alleges that— along with not being able to keep a timetable for production it had previously given investors — the company was not honest about its ability to produce a promised amount of volume at its first commissioned plant in Columbus.

KiOR Spokesperson Kate Perez said Wednesday that the company had notified its insurance carrier of the claims.

“We believe that we have strong defenses to these claims, and we intend to defend them vigorously,” Perez said.

The lawsuit cites a May 2013 statement from Cannon that the company expected to produce between 300,000 and 500,000 gallons of fuel in the second quarter of 2013, though at the close of the quarter the company announced it had shipped only 75,000 gallons.

“On this news, KiOR investors fled from the stock, causing its share price to decline $2.12 per share, or over 44 percent, over the course of the next six trading sessions, from a close of $4.76 per share on Aug. 7, 2013 to a close of $2.62 per share on Aug. 15, 2013,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit likewise quotes a March 2013 statement from Cannon, who said he recognized that many investors were expecting to see commercial shipments from Columbus begin in late 2012 based on previous guidance from the company.

“Did we set an aggressive target for ourselves? Yes. Am I disappointed that we missed our target? Absolutely yes,” Cannon said at the time.

“Did we encounter unexpected startup issues unrelated to our technology? Yes, we did. However, we have overcome these normal startup issues, and we have proven that KiOR’s proprietary biomass to fuels technology works at commercial scale at Columbus.”

During all of its quarterly investors calls, a company representative states that forward-looking statements are based on expectations and assumptions that are subject to risks and uncertainties. In May, KiOR Treasurer Max Kirkorian said during the quarterly investor’s call, “The company undertakes no obligation to release publicly any revisions to any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after today or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. Therefore, you should not rely on these forward-looking statements as representing the company’s views as of any date subsequent to today.”

KiOR announced in mid-2012 plans to build a larger-scale production facility in Natchez than the Columbus facility, which was at the time under construction. The proposed Natchez facility is projected to created 320 direct and indirect jobs, and the company has in the past given a late 2013 date for groundbreaking.

However, during the same call in August that the lawsuit alleges started the stock sell-off, Cannon said the company would be deciding in the coming months if it will build a second facility in Columbus first before commencing construction in Natchez. The second Columbus plant could help the company become cashflow positive more quickly, he said during the call.

KiOR’s stock was $2.55 a share at the close of markets Wednesday afternoon.