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Jury Awards Veronex CEO $11 Million Damages

Courts: Triton Energy is ordered to pay after allegedly malicious prosecution of the Irvine software firm.


A federal jury has awarded the chief executive of an Irvine-based software company $11 million damages after finding that he and his company had been "maliciously prosecuted" by oil and gas producer Triton Energy Ltd.

David A. Hite, chief executive of Veronex Technologies Inc., contended that Triton had sued him maliciously after he had accused the company of improper accounting procedures and complained to federal authorities.

The jury also awarded $700,000 damages to Veronex after a five-day trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Veronex said Thursday.

"This has been very, very adversarial," Hite said. "The company is certainly vindicated and Triton is made to be the bad guy. They did not act appropriately and the jury made that pretty clear."

Triton on Thursday declined to comment on the jury's recent verdict. But in regulatory documents, Triton said it believes it acted appropriately and plans to appeal.

The companies first tangled nine years ago in an arbitration hearing over an oil field owned in Indonesia by a Veronex subsidiary, Nordell International Ltd.

Nordell was ordered to pay Triton nearly $1 million after the arbitration hearing. Hite said he then filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice stating that Triton's books and records were falsified.

In February 1997, Triton agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a variety of SEC allegations. The company neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.

Hite claimed that Triton retaliated by unsuccessfully suing him for the nearly $1 million Nordell owed them from the arbitration.

Veronex sued Triton in August 1997. Triton later moved its headquarters from Dallas to the Cayman Islands.

Veronex disclosed the jury's award after U.S. markets closed Thursday. The stock, which trades over the counter, was unchanged at $2.69 a share.

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