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Alleging cyber libel, junior settles for online apology

Meanwhile the hunt for three other Internet poster continues as VMS Ventures gets court orders for ISP to release names.

As part of an undisclosed settlement with junior VMS Ventures an anonymous poster called “U3O82014” agreed to publish an apology for comments he or she made earlier this year on Stockhouse.com. 

“I am just an ‘average joe’ investor that was acting alone and out of frustration,” U3O82014 wrote in the apology published on Stockhouse.com and reproduced by VMS Ventures in a press release on Friday. “I owned 55,000 shares of VMS and was very upset with the lack of drilling results and the Dunlop Lawsuit” – the poster said, referring to ongoing litigation in which VMS Ventures is involved – “and how it negatively affected the share price. 

“As a shareholder I thought I had the right to be critical of management, but in retrospect I can see that my comments ‘crossed the line.’ I made some statements in haste and admittedly ‘jumped to conclusions’.”

Then U3O82014 said, contrary to posts alleging otherwise, “I believe that VMS management did not withhold any information and have handled the Dunlop lawsuit in the best interests of VMS shareholders.”

The settlement with U3O82014 comes as VMS Ventures, which has a 30-percent stake in Hudbay’s Reed Lake mine, said it was closer to identifying three other posters. VMS Ventures said Friday that it got a court order to have Internet service providers release the identity of individuals associated with several IP addresses that have been linked to the location where Stockhouse.com users made the online comments. 

VMS Ventures alleges that like U3O82014 three other posters, “axeman#”, “tamerackerdown” and “nttg2005″, who it has not yet identified or settled with out of court, made defamatory statements that were “false and malacious.”

The posts frequently alleged management incompetence and fraud and often contained crass insults. In one post, quoted here from a story by Street Wire, nttg2005 reportedly wrote, “The management has been disappointing and are losing their credibility fast. It shows on all the other companies they own. The are busy shagging sheep instead of running a company.”

On Friday VMS Ventures stated that it would “pursue all legal options” once it had the names of the Stockhouse.com posters from the Internet providers. Whether additional apologies from the posters would suffice was not clear. A VMS Ventures spokesperson, director Evan Sleeman, said no final decisions had been made about what legal action the junior might take against the posters. 

“I don’t really know,” Sleeman said.

Legal penalties against individuals found guilty of defamation in Canada can get pricey. In one of the better known cases, Barrick won suit against Jorge Lopehandia for defamatory comments he made online about Barrick. Damages totalled C$125,000.

Meantime, the apology from U3O82014 appears to have inspired one of the other posters, tamerackerdown, to follow suit. On Stockhouse.com Friday, a poster using that name wrote, “Yes, I feel I must also apologize for the foolish things I said in those posts, under the user name Tamerackerdown. Like U3O82014 I too lost a lot of money in this investment, having over 200,000 shares.”

Tamerackerdown said that “I became very frustrated” and lashed “out at management” in a way that “was totally uncalled for in my case as the reality of it was and still is the market was not and still is not giving the mining sector any credit, especially a junior like VMS who will have a mine in production in short order.”

Perhaps hoping to avoid legal action, Tamerackerdown concluded by apologizing repeatedly. “I sincerely hope VMS management and shareholders will accept my apology. It will never happen again, as you probably noticed I have not posted since this came to light. I have had a lot of time to reflect on how stupid and foolish my statements were. 

“Once again please accept my sincere apology.”

Eds. note: grammatical and spelling errors in poster comments have been edited.

 

 
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