More investors are joining a shareholder lawsuit against New York-traded Dynagas, with several jockeying to lead the charge.
This week, three groups representing six investors filed motions in Manhattan federal court seeking appointment as lead plaintiff in the attempted class action suit against the LNG carrier owner.
Together, the investors said they have lost more than $1m due to Dynagas' guidance that its long-term charters were providing enough cash flow to support generous distributions in an effort to keep the founding family's leading stake intact.
"[T]he First New York Group has a powerful economic interest in dictating the litigation and recovering the losses it suffered — an interest believed to be greater than that of any other movant," court papers filed Tuesday read.
The so-called First New York Group is made up of Mario Epelbaum, who first filed the lawsuit in May, a fund run by investment firm First New York and Scott Dunlop.
Together, they have claimed that they lost more than $627,000 thanks to the guidance provided to investors.
Individually, Mihai Felescu filed a motion to be named lead plaintiff, arguing he lost $339,000.
The third group, the Dynagas Investor Group, is made up of Philip Murtaugh and Brian Bober, who say they lost $60,458 on a last-in, first-out basis.
Murtaugh and Bober argued that courts prefer losses be accounted for on a last-in, first-out basis when determining a lead plaintiff, which will litigate on behalf of all Dynagas shareholders.
Courts primarily take financial loss into account when determining lead plaintiff status in class action suits, but also judge whether a potential lead is a typical representative of the class and whether the lead would protect the interests of all class members.
In Epelbaum's May complaint, he alleged Dynagas obscured the fact they took low rates on long-term charters for the 149,000-cbm Ob River (built 2007) and the 155,000-cbm Arctic Aurora (built 2013).
It is alleged that in early 2018, the Tony Lauritzen-led company began misleading or outright lying to shareholders about charter rates, cash flows and their ability to sustain the dividends of about $0.423 per share.
Those dividends were eventually cut to $0.25 per share, then to $0.0625 per share, while Dynagas blamed the two ships for missing Wall Street expectations.
Further, the shareholders alleged that the company was set to fund new drop-downs from parent Dynagas Holdings with a $750m at-the-market offering in January 2018.
The alleged lies were a move to keep the share price high, so the drop-downs could be funded without diluting Dynagas Holdings' top 43.9% position.
Dynagas Holdings is owned by founder George Procopiou and his family, including daughter Marina, who is married to Lauritzen.
The company has since disclosed that it may have to cut its distribution further in an effort to refinance debt coming due in October.
Since the lawsuit was filed on 16 May, Dynagas shares have slid from a high of $2.24 to $1.41 at the close Wednesday. Thursday shares were trading at $1.39, a 52-week low.
Epelbaum was represented by Entwistle & Cappucci. The First New York Group continues to be represented by the firm.
Felescu's attorneys are Rosen Law Firm, while the Dynagas Investor Group is represented by Levi & Korsinsky.
Dynagas is being represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Requests for comment were not immediately returned.