DENVER, May 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Farmland Partners Inc. (NYSE: FPI) (the "Company") announced today that the Honorable Kristin L. Mix, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Colorado, ruled in favor of the Company in two critical orders issued on May 18, 2020 in Farmland Partners Inc. v. Rota Fortunae, et al., 18-cv-02351-KLM. This matter concerns the short-and-distort scheme set forth in Farmland Partners' July 23, 2018 complaint whereby Rota Fortunae and his co-conspirators posted false and misleading statements on SeekingAlpha.com about Farmland Partners (the "Posting") while taking sizeable short positions in Farmland Partners' stock to earn substantial profits from the market's negative reaction to the Posting.
In a ruling granting Farmland Partners' motion to compel discovery, the Court rejected Rota Fortunae's arguments that he could proceed anonymously and ordered that Rota Fortunae could no longer hide behind his pseudonym and withhold the names of his co-conspirators. The Court held that Rota Fortunae may not prevent discovery into the merits of Farmland Partners' claims by refusing to give Farmland Partners documents and other information that would reveal his identity. Magistrate Judge Mix rejected Rota Fortunae's argument that the First Amendment protected his right to anonymity—holding the First Amendment does not protect defamatory speech—and after summarizing Rota Fortunae's efforts to avoid discovery for nearly two years, ordered Rota Fortunae to respond fully to the Company's discovery requests—and to identify himself—within 20 days and to sit for a deposition within 45 days.
The Court's discovery order came on the heels of the Court's denial of Rota Fortunae's motions to dismiss earlier the same day. In that order, the Court denied Rota Fortunae's motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds, and permitted all of Farmland Partners' causes of action to go forward against Rota Fortunae and his anonymous co-defendants. While the court held that some of Rota Fortunae's statements were non-actionable opinions, the Court denied Rota Fortunae's request to dismiss the defamation claim. As the Court recognized: "FPI's allegations further show the strong motive that Rota had to publish defamatory statements, as Rota stood to profit from a public sell-off of FPI's stock due to his short position."
"This is a significant victory in our pursuit of justice for the Company and its stockholders," said Paul Pittman, the Company's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "While this certainly isn't the end of this process and we expect Rota Fortunae to look for new ways to avoid accountability for his actions, we are very pleased that the Court has sent a clear message to Rota Fortunae and his co-defendants that they can't continue to hide behind the mask of anonymity when they engage in wrongdoing."
Mr. Pittman continued: "We will continue to pursue this case vigorously and we very much look forward to getting our day in court so that we can reveal the full scope of Rota Fortunae's and his co-conspirators' misconduct and pursue the damages these defendants owe Farmland Partners." Farmland Partners also continues to vigorously defend a class action lawsuit against the company based on Rota Fortunae's defamatory Posting.
Farmland Partners is represented in this matter by Morrison & Foerster LLP.
About Farmland Partners Inc.
Farmland Partners Inc. is an internally managed real estate company that owns and seeks to acquire high-quality North American farmland and makes loans to farmers secured by farm real estate. As of the date of this release, the Company owns approximately 156,500 acres in 16 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia. We have approximately 26 crop types and over 100 tenants. The Company elected to be taxed as a real estate investment trust, or REIT, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, commencing with the taxable year ended December 31, 2014.
This press release includes "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the federal securities laws, including, without limitation, statements with respect to our outlook, proposed and pending acquisitions and dispositions, the potential impact of trade disputes and recent extreme weather events on the Company's results, financing activities, crop yields and prices and anticipated rental rates. Forward-looking statements generally can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as "may," "should," "could," "would," "predicts," "potential," "continue," "expects," "anticipates," "future," "intends," "plans," "believes," "estimates" or similar expressions or their negatives, as well as statements in future tense. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions, beliefs and expectations, such forward-looking statements are not predictions of future events or guarantees of future performance and our actual results could differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements. Some factors that might cause such a difference include the following: the litigation discussed in this press release and related matters, including the possibility that these rulings are overturned or modified on appeal; general volatility of the capital markets and the market price of the Company's common stock or Series B participating preferred stock; changes in the Company's business strategy; availability, terms and deployment of capital; the Company's ability to refinance existing indebtedness at or prior to maturity on favorable terms or at all; availability of qualified personnel; changes in the Company's industry, interest rates or the general economy, including as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; adverse developments related to crop yields or crop prices; the degree and nature of the Company's competition; the timing, price or amount of repurchases, if any, under the Company's share repurchase program; and the other factors described in the section entitled "Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019, and the Company's other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Any forward-looking information presented herein is made only as of the date of this press release, and the Company does not undertake any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking information to reflect changes in assumptions, the occurrence of unanticipated events, or otherwise.
SOURCE Farmland Partners Inc.