War of words intensifies over Transocean board shakeup effort

Transocean said Friday that dissident shareholder Carl Icahn’s three nominees to serve on the company’s board are “captive to his misguided agenda” in a regulatory filing that stepped up the war of words between the Swiss drilling contractor and the billionaire investor.

Transocean’s assertions in the documents about Icahn’s motivations and the professional background of his nominees were largely the same as in past filings.

One new addition in the updated presentation in connection with the company’s May 17 annual meeting in Zug, Switzerland, was a reference to a pending criminal case involving Icahn nominee Jose Maria Alapont.

Transocean cited a Houston Chronicle report earlier this week that disclosed that Alapont has been dogged for nearly a decade by a criminal complaint in Spain that accuses him of taking part in a multi-million dollar fraud against employees of a company where he used to be an executive.

Alapont says he hasn’t been served with the complaint. A Spanish prosecutor says the case is still pending and prison time is still possible for the defendants, including Alapont.

Two independent shareholder advocacy groups have come out against Icahn’s proposal for Transocean to issue a $4-a-share dividend. Transocean has proposed a $2.24-a-share dividend.

One of the groups supports two of Icahn’s board nominees, including Alapont. The other group supports one of Icahn’s nominees.

In his own updated presentation filed Thursday afternoon, Icahn mocked Transocean’s claims about its “history of achievement” and accused the current board of failing to create shareholder value and the company of lagging its peers in performance.

Icahn also said the three current board members he is seeking to oust have been Transocean directors through all of the “value destructive transactions” he has cited, and he urged fellow shareholders to give them the boot.

“Through multiple cycles, strategies and management teams they seem to us to be the common thread,” Icahn said.