BELMONT, N.C. — Piedmont Lithium is facing a second lawsuit from shareholders after the Gaston County-based company's stock price nosedived following criticism of the company's practices from commissioners and neighbors.
Shareholders filed the two lawsuits in the United States Eastern District of New York after they claimed the stock price's drop lost them money.
At the time, Gaston County commissioners publicly criticized the company for not actively communicating with them, including during a commissioners meeting on July 22, 2021.
"I'm not saying I'm against it. I'm frustrated," Commissioner Chad Brown said at the meeting. "You guys, first time we’ve laid eyes on anybody, other than Malissa [Gordon], was tonight."
Piedmont Lithium hopes to use the lithium it mines to sell to companies like Tesla, which uses the element to power its cars, but the company has faced delays and complaints from neighbors.
"No company that I've ever dealt with has, I think, left such a bad taste in our citizens’ mouth, and even the commission, to start out with," Commissioner Tracy Philbeck said.
Two weeks later, commissioners placed a 60-day moratorium on all mining activity in the county.
Both lawsuits included excerpts from press releases and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents, which they claimed painted the company in a rosier picture than in reality.
According to one lawsuit, attorneys alleged the company's statements "...were materially misleading because they failed to disclose: (i) that Piedmont lacked local support for its lithium project; (ii) that Piedmont failed to file proper applications for permits with the relevant governmental authorities; and (iii) that, as a result of the foregoing, Piedmont was unlikely to obtain permits on its stated timeline."
The plaintiffs asked the company to pay back the money they lost after the company’s stock price fell.
Piedmont Lithium said in a statement, "We maintain our position that these lawsuits are completely baseless and without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously through all legal means and channels."
Separately, the North Carolina Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources (DEMLR) will be holding a public hearing on Nov. 15 regarding Piedmont Lithium's mining permit application.
The hearing will last from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Gaston County Courthouse followed by a virtual public hearing on Nov. 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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