After being fired last year for allegedly concealing a tax scandal that rocked enzyme developer Dyadic International, the company's founder and former CEO, Mark Emalfarb, is just two weeks away from a board meeting that could put him back in control.
The scandal involved Puridet, a Chinese subsidiary wholly owned by Dyadic. According to details from an independent investigation Dyadic released in March, Puridet set up two dummy companies - which it claimed were its largest customers - to help cash-paying customers avoid paying Chinese taxes (see Dyadic Investigation Reveals Tax-Scandal Details).
The investigation was conducted by law firm Moscowitz & Moscowitz.
Dyadic, a Jupiter, Fla.-based company traded over the counter under the ticker "DYAI," blamed Emalfarb for concealing the scandal and then fired him in September.
But Emalfarb hasn't gone quietly. In February, two hedge funds - which, together with Emalfarb, represented ownership of 52.4 percent of Dyadic's common stock, according to the South Florida Business Journal - asked for him to be given a controlling position on the board after the company was delisted from the American Stock Exchange.
The company had asked Emalfarb to voluntarily resign from the board in September, but when he didn't, other board members cut him out of decisions, according to the February letter.
The day of reckoning is expected to be June 20, the day of the company's annual stockholders meeting. Shareholders are expected to vote to fill three board positions, made up of one two-year term and two three-year terms.
Emalfarb is likely to be re-elected for another term, according to Neil Berkman, a spokesperson for Dyadic. Even more concerning for Dyadic's current executives, he expects that two of Emalfarb's supporters, Seth Herbst and Robert Burke, will win seats on the five-person board.
Once that happens, "his group will gain control of the board and he will be named CEO again," Berkman predicted.
Emalfarb wouldn't confirm whether he plans to take back the executive seat.
But the possibility is enough to inspire protest among the company's top ranks. All five of Dyadic's top executives have handed in letters of resignation, according to documents filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
That includes CEO Wayne Moor, Chief Financial Officer Lisa De La Pointe and three other top executives, all of whom have announced their intent to leave no later than June 20.
"I cannot work with him knowing that I could be the scapegoat for his next potential illicit adventure," De La Pointe wrote in her resignation letter.
Use of the word "scapegoat" is one thing both sides have in common.
In a conversation with Greentech Media, Emalfarb emphatically denied the allegations and said he has been a scapegoat for those auditing the company's financials.
Emalfarb also said the investigation was unfair. He claims he never had a chance to review and counter the findings before the report was published.
"I believe people tried to frame me for what I didn't do," he said.
Dyadic spokesman Berkman said he could not comment on Emalfarb's claims and suggested reading the company's Thursday SEC filings.
The filings amount to a "he said, company said" face-off. But one piece of information in the filings suggests some clarity might be on the way.
According to De La Pointe's resignation letter, the SEC is conducting an investigation into whether or not the company or its employees committed securities fraud.
Despite the soap-opera-like situation, Emalfarb said he is determined to get the company back on track.
"We are going to have to clean up this mess," he said Thursday.
Although the company has suffered some serious losses, including money to pay for its legal wrangling with Emalfarb, all is not lost, he said.
While he and Dyadic executives have been duking it out, "the scientists put their heads down and advanced the science," Emalfarb said. The company has been developing enzymes to help make biofuels such as ethanol and biobutanol.
Regardless of the outcome June 20, it is still too early to tell whether the technology will be enough to save the company from self-implosion.