A shareholder of Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. has sued the commodities giant days after its stock prices tumbled on news of an accounting probe into the company's nutrition unit.
Investor Raymond Chow accused ADM in a proposed class action lawsuit of improper accounting practices and misleading shareholders about the performance and growth prospects of its nutrition unit.
"As ADM was aggressively acquiring companies to expand its capabilities in Nutrition, investors were under the impression that the segment was growing rapidly," according to the lawsuit, filed at a federal court in Chicago on Wednesday. "In reality, Defendants’ accounting practices for the segment misrepresented its true financial results and prospects."
ADM shares plummeted 24% on Monday after the commodities trader said it tapped outside counsel to investigate "certain accounting practices and procedures" within the nutrition segment. The company also placed CFO Vikram Luthar on leave. The lawsuit also alleges that stock awards tied to the performance of the nutrition segment incentivized Luthar and other executives to make false statements to investors.
The world's largest grain trader had touted its nutrition segment as a major profit driver, and it has spent billions of dollars in the space to capitalize on growing consumer demand for natural ingredients and flavorings.
After reporting growth in its ingredients unit between 2020 and 2022, ADM said in October that profits in the segment had declined. An investigation was initiated after receiving a voluntary document request from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The ensuing stock plunge wiped out $8.8 billion of ADM's market value, the lawsuit claims, and was the company's largest one-day decline since the market crash of 1929. Chow is seeking damages for investors to compensate for the loss in share value.
ADM said on Sunday it would delay the release of its fourth-quarter results and withdraw the outlook for its nutrition segment.