The San Francisco-based law firm's solicitation for aggrieved shareholders on Wednesday comes a day after Vancouver-based Novagold filed a lawsuit against short seller J Capital Research (JCAP) in New York East District Court alleging it suffered damages from a manipulative "short and distort" report JCAP published in late May.
Novagold said the law firm's release this week appeared to be entirely based on the JCAP "tapestry of deceit" that "reiterates numerous false and misleading statements" about the company and its 50-50 development partner for the Alaska-based Donlin gold project, Barrick Gold.
The JCAP report described the project as so technically challenging it would never be built. It accused Novagold's management team of deliberately misleading investors for 15 years, said management had treated the company like an ATM and claimed Barrick was so unenthusiastic about Donlin, the project was not included in the major's new 10-year programme.
The law firm's solicitation cites several statements Novagold management had addressed in its prior 40-page JCAP report rebuttal and plus-9,000 word letter to shareholders from chairman Thomas Kaplan.
"That a law firm attempted to solicit Novagold shareholders based entirely on a fundamentally flawed ‘report' issued by JCAP - one that the company has systematically shown to be rife with flat-out falsehoods and misleading information - is par for the course in this dirty game," said Kaplan.
"Even with Novagold's line-by-line factual rebuttal available to them, the law firm did nothing more than repeat a slapdash mixture of errors of fact, falsehoods, and discredited assertions."
He characterised the law firm's release "emblematic of the amateurishness and abject ignorance of the public statements made recently about Novagold by JCAP and now repeated by others".
Kaplan encouraged owners to assess whether they had suffered damage from the reports and to seek advice regarding potential redress available to them from the "real perpetrator of wrongs: JCAP".
He painted JCAP as having no known experience in mining, other than two past recommendations namely, a short on Fortescue Metals Group which subsequently nearly trebled in value, and a bullish stance on Mongolian Mining Corporation, which had since fallen 99% in value.
"We are confident that informed investors will see the absurdity."
Novagold and Barrick reopened the Donlin camp last month following a two-month hiatus brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said four drill rigs had been remobilised at the project, with most of the planned exploration programme, aimed at confirming recent geologic modelling concepts and testing potential extensions of high-grade zones, would be completed by year-end.
The 2020 drill programme comprises about 80 holes for about 22,000m, focused on the ACMA and Lewis resource areas.
Donlin has 541 million tonnes at 2.24g/t gold containing 39 million ounces and is forecast to produce 1.1Moz over a 27-year mine life.
Novagold shares (TSX:NG) traded between C$5-$10 for much of last year and rose to $18 in April.
They dipped about 20% to $11.80 between Tuesday and Thursday this week and are down 12% since the JCAP report was issued.
The company is capitalised at C$3.9 billion (US$2.9 billion).