A search of the Empire share register showed there were 65 shareholders holding only one single share. As the shares fetch 1.3¢ these are very small shareholders indeed.

What could they possibly be doing, these 65 shareholders, apart from eking out exceptionally modest gains?

Of the 65 shareholders, 33 were companies that were owned by three directors of a Sydney stockbroking firm – Luke William Cummings, Rodney Stephen Harper and Andrew Peter Salvestrin.

A spot of Googling established that the three were directors of broking firm HC Securities – no relation to the HotCopper internet forum which has withdrawn all discussion of Empire after legal action from the company.

Anyway, the three prolifically small shareholders are no longer at HC Securities.

In fact they sold 85 per cent of the business in March 2009 and both the firm and one of the lads, Rod Harper, both said the transactions had nought to do with HC. So, there you have it.

The shares were bought, said Rod, so that they might participate in Empire’s share purchase plans (SPPs) and like offerings.

If they, for instance, took up their $15,000 worth of shares in their 33 companies in last month’s SPP at a 20 per cent discount that would have made them a collective $120,000.

Certainly a better day’s work than the $800 forked out in company search fees to the corporate regulator for the pleasure of perusing the public materials.

There was also a bunch of low value trades struck on August 14 when the SPP was announced.

Elsewhere in this most acrimonious of shareholder battles – where dissidents are trying to roll the Empire board and the board is suing for defamation – the war of words continued this week.

Each side is accusing the other of much skulduggery and squalid and defamatory behaviour.

On Wednesday before Justice Rene Le Miere in the Supreme Court, dissident shareholder Eddie Smith had a setback in his bid to have a requisition for shareholder meeting rendered valid. Empire had challenged the validity.

The company also noted that Smith had given undertakings to the court to remove allegedly defamatory documents from his website. The Empire directors are suing him for defamation.

Meanwhile, discussion on another internet stock forum has been shut down. Readers may recall last week we revealed plans by HotCopper to leave the country on account of being harassed by lawyers too often. Now on a smaller chat site, TopStocks, this appears on the Empire thread:

“The EGO [Empire Oil & Gas] forum has been temporarily SHUT DOWN. Members will not be able to post in this forum until it is re-opened. The closure is due to pending legal action which cannot be elaborated on any further.”

Shareholder democracy is the loser.