One month remains until flashy stockpicker and mining executive Tolga Kumova takes on cranky penny stock commentator Alan Davison in Federal Court.
Kumova, a founder of Syrah Resources and several other mining companies, reckons Davison defamed him on Twitter through accusations of insider trading, share price manipulation and other nefarious activities. Davison, who for seven years has offered scathing commentary of many ASX players under the Stock Swami handle, is defending the claim. Now, with new lawyers.
A notice filed to the court on April 26 – just nine weeks before the trial’s commencement – reveals the new appointment of boutique Xenophon Davis to his case. It’s the legal firm started by ex-South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon, now a candidate in the upcoming election, and lawyer and celebrated investigative journalist Mark Davis.
Notably, it makes a point of representing its clients “in public and political forms” as well as in the courtroom (a savvy that must have been attractive to ex-client Huawei, the Chinese telco having hired Xenophon Davis as strategic counsel in 2019 after being banned from Australia’s 5G networks).
When contacted about the firm’s appointment to the Davison case, Davis said Stock Swami provides “a vital service to investors in Australia”, shining a light “into the darkest seas that private investors have to navigate”.
“His commentary lies firmly within the public interest and the finest traditions of citizen journalism.” Sadly, Davis added, it appears the “legislative tide” has turned against such activities.
This is evidenced partly by this very case: Davison last July lost a bid to protect a source by claiming the use of shield laws available to working journalists, with Justice Geoffrey Flick finding that his “conduct in the use of the platform viewed in its entirety strips [Davison] of that characterisation”.
Though there have been other victories in similar arenas. This week, refugee activist Shane Bazzi succeeded in having the full Federal Court overturn an earlier decision against him over a robust Twitter post that Defence Minister Peter Dutton argued had defamed him.
And in March, Davis successfully represented Youtuber Kristo Langker in having several counts of stalking charges brought by police dropped.
These had stemmed from Langker’s filmed streetside encounter with John Barilaro. The then-NSW deputy premier was suing Langker’s boss, Jordan Shanks, for defamation at the time. Barilaro’s barrister in his now-settled case against Shanks, incidentally, was high-profile silk Sue Chrysanthou, who is also representing Kumova.
For his part, Kumova launched the case in September 2020 claiming he was standing up to a bully. “Many victims are not in the position to be able to take on an international legal case. I am, and I have decided to do so because it is the right thing to do.”
Justice Michael Lee has set aside 14 days to hear the dispute, beginning on June 20.