* Deer Consumer Products is U.S.-listed Chinese company
* Deer sued blogger in 2011 for false reports, defamation
* Blogger seeks anonymity, claims risks of physical harm
* Judge orders identity info turned over to Deer lawyer
By Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) - An anonymous blogger accused of writing false reports to profit on short sales of Deer Consumer Products Inc, a U.S.-listed Chinese appliance maker, was ordered by a judge to disclose his identity to the company’s lawyers.
The identity of the person or persons behind the pseudonym “Alfred Little” must be provided within 20 days to the New York-based Bostany Law Firm, which represents Deer, New York state Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead said in an order made available Wednesday.
The ruling comes as investor bloggers have made big waves - and cash - by shorting the shares of North American-listed Chinese companies and issuing reports accusing them of accounting fraud. Chinese companies have fought back, accusing bloggers of scheming to drive down their share prices by distorting the facts.
Deer, which makes small kitchen appliances, sued Alfred Little in New York last year for defamation and sought as much as $100 million in illicit trading profits.
The lawsuit claims Little, which operates research firm and short seller Alfredlittle.com, falsely accused Deer of engaging in fraudulent land transactions in China to drive down the stock price. Short sellers sell borrowed stock with the aim of buying it back at a lower price.
Similar cases against Little also were filed in New York by Silvercorp Metals Inc, a Chinese silver producer, and Sino Clean Energy, a producer of coal-water slurry fuel.
Edmead ordered the information about “Alfred Little” be turned over to help determine whether New York has jurisdiction in Deer’s lawsuit. Little’s lawyers have sought to dismiss the suit, saying the blogger does not have the necessary ties to New York for the case to proceed here.
Little wants to remain anonymous, claiming “grave danger” if his true identity were disclosed, according to the judge. The blogger told the judge of threats and intimidation to him and colleagues involved in reporting on alleged corruption, Edmead said in a Feb. 23 decision.
Edmead said at the time she would “err on the side of caution” and let Little proceed anonymously for the time being. However, she added, there was a “strong presumption” Little’s “alleged intimidators are well aware of defendant’s true identity and that of his known associates and colleagues.”
According to Deer’s lawsuit, the company’s stock went from $11.03 to $7.89 from March 14, 2011, through March 25, 2011, while short interest rose by more than 500,000 shares. Shares fell 4.1 percent to close at $3.71 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday.
Deer attorney John Bostany said he expects to be held to a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the names of the Alfred Little bloggers once their identities are turned over.
New York attorney Joseph T. Johnson of Eaton & Van Winkle LLP, who represents Alfred Little, declined comment.
Simon Moore, managing editor of Alfredlittle.com, said in an email he could not comment on any person who might be a member of Alfred Little due to the site’s “strict confidentiality rules.” Moore is a defendant in the Silvercorp lawsuit.
The case is Deer Consumer Products v. Alfred Little, 650823/2011, New York state Supreme Court. The other cases are Silvercorp Metals Inc. V Chinastockwatch.com, 150374/2011, and Sino Clean Energy Inc. v Alfred Little, 651248/2011, New York state Supreme Court.