Empire Oil & Gas' new board has dramatically escalated its campaign against founder Craig Marshall and previous directors, today initiating legal proceedings to try to recoup $441,632 in legal bills paid for by the company to fund the old guard's personal defamation actions.
Empire filed the writ in the Supreme Court this morning, citing Mr Marshall, Neil Joyce and Bevan Warris as defendants.
Mr Marshall and Mr Joyce quit the Empire board last month when they realised they had lost investors' support in the wake of a campaign led by ERM Power, a 10 per cent shareholder, to roll the board.
Mr Warris remains on the Empire board in a move new chairman Tony Iannello, an ERM representative, said last month was to ensure some continuity and help the new directors understand Empire's business.
However, today's legal action suggests Mr Warris' days as an Empire director are numbered.
Empire says in a statement to the ASX today that the writ it has filed "arises from the payment by Empire of legal fees incurred by the three defendants in relation to the personal defamation actions they took while they were directors of Empire".
"Empire alleges in the writ that Messrs Marshall, Joyce and Warris contravened several sections of the Corporations Act and breached their fiduciary duties to the company in relation to these payments.
"The three men sued certain Empire shareholders for defamation in relation to posts made on internet discussions sites including HotCopper."
WestBusiness is trying to contact Mr Marshall for comment.
Empire revealed yesterday that $22,000 in cash settlements from various defamation actions had not been received by the company, contrary to declarations in its audited financial accounts which stated the receipt of the cash.