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Sierracin Suit Says Ex-Officer Defamed Chief

January 24, 1986|STUART SILVERSTEIN | Times Staff Writer

Sierracin Corp. has filed a lawsuit accusing one of its former directors of conspiring to discredit the Sylmar-based aerospace and electronics company by spreading allegations that its chairman diverted more than $300,000 in corporate funds to his own use.

The Los Angeles Superior Court suit asserts that Berenice Stevenson, the former director, "embarked upon a campaign of defamation, vilification and vendetta" against the company and its chairman, Christoph Tribull. The suit accused Stevenson, a director from November, 1983, until her term expired in May, 1985, of "manufacturing a challenge" to Tribull's legitimate expenses only after she was told in January, 1985, that she would not be reappointed to the board.

For Sierracin, the suit marks another episode in its long-running dispute with dissident shareholders and former directors over Tribull's compensation and other issues. The feud first reached the courtroom in November. Shareholders Herbert and Euretta Hastings, owners of 7% of the company's stock, alleged in a still-pending suit that Tribull may have improperly spent company funds on expenses such as a polo pony and a Beverly Hills home.

In the suit that Sierracin filed Tuesday, the company charged that the Hastings' case was inspired by Stevenson's efforts to defame the company. Sierracin alleged that Stevenson supplied information to shareholders, company officials and auditors and newspapers to challenge Tribull's expense account even though, while on the board, she approved his expenses.

Sierracin asked for $5 million in punitive damages and an undetermined amount for actual damages. It maintained that Stevenson's actions have disrupted the company's relationships with its lenders and customers and undermined its ability to hire executives.

In an interview, Stevenson responded to the suit by saying that it was prompted by an investigation that she demanded "regarding a large sum of money paid in cash to the chairman."

"I dared to put the question to the board, the chairman warned me that if I persisted in my investigation he would sue me, and that's what he's done, for $5 million," Stevenson said.

"It's malicious, and I'm going to fight it."

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