Commitments and Contingencies
|12 Months Ended|
Dec. 31, 2019
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]|
|Commitments and Contingencies||
On April 19, 2018, Stephen Clarke resigned as president and chief executive officer and as a member of the Board. Dr. Clarke’s resignation as an officer of the Company was treated as a termination without cause under his employment agreement with the Company. Pursuant to his employment agreement, Dr. Clarke was entitled to one-time severance benefits that includes severance and benefits continuation expense of approximately $0.9 million paid out over a 2-year period in consideration of his execution of a customary release and separation agreement. Additionally, Dr. Clarke was granted an extension of the exercise period of his stock options upon termination from 90 days to 2 years. The expense related to the modification of these stock option awards was approximately $15,000.
On December 3, 2018, Selwyn Mould resigned as chief operating officer. Mr. Mould’s resignation as an officer the Company was treated as a termination without cause under his employment agreement with the Company. Pursuant to his employment agreement, Mr. Mould was entitled to one-time severance benefits that includes severance and benefits continuation expense of approximately $0.9 million paid out over a 2-year period in consideration of his execution of a customary release and separation agreement. Pursuant to a Separation Agreement and Release between the Company and Mr. Mould, Mr. Mould has agreed to receive, in lieu of two years of salary, a cash severance payment of $100,000 payable in six equal installments in accordance with the Company's regular payroll practices, plus an award of restricted stock units that will entitle him to receive, for each of the 21 consecutive months commencing on March 1, 2019, $33,333 of the Company's common shares based on the volume-weighted average price over the 20 trading days preceding the first business day of the respective month. The Company has reserved the right, at its option, to pay Mr. Mould $33,333 of cash in lieu of any of the 21 monthly share issuances. The
Separation Agreement and Release includes customary indemnification, confidentiality, non-disparagement and non-solicitation covenants and agreements of the parties.
As discussed in Note 13, on August 7, 2015, the Company signed a lease for 21,697 square feet of mixed office and manufacturing space in Alameda, CA. On October 10, 2014, the Company entered into an operating lease for its current Oakland facility which expired in April 2018. The Company entered into a sublease agreement dated February 4, 2019 for the Alameda facility. The term of the sublease commenced on February 4, 2019, and ends on May 31, 2022. Total base rent payable by the sublessee through the end of the term of the sublease is approximately $1.5 million.
In July 2018, the Company signed a lease for 14,016 square feet of mixed office and warehouse space in McCarran, Nevada.
The future minimum payments related to these leases are as follows as of December 31, 2019 (in thousands):
During the years ended December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2018, the Company has incurred total rent expense of $0.6 million and $0.5 million, respectively.
Interstate Battery Agreement commitment
On June 24, 2018, the Company entered into a series of agreements with Interstate Battery, including an amendment to the Investor Rights Agreement. Pursuant to the amendment to the Investor Rights Agreement, Interstate Battery agreed to waive all payments under the key-man provisions of the Investor Rights Agreement with respect to the resignation of the Company’s former chief executive officer, Stephen Clarke. In addition, the parties agreed that the Company, at its option, can elect to eliminate the key-man event and all related key-man payments associated with Mr. Mould by (i) paying Interstate Battery a one-time fee of $0.5 million, payable in cash and (ii) agreeing to pay Interstate Battery $2.0 million, payable at the Company’s election in cash or shares of its common stock, should the Company’s current president, Stephen Cotton, no longer serve as president of the Company during the period ending May 18, 2019.
The Company paid Interstate Battery a one-time fee of $0.5 million on February 20, 2019 related to the key-man provision associated with Mr. Mould's resignation.
Clarios (successor of Johnson Controls) Agreement Commitment
Pursuant to the Clarios Investor Rights Agreement, the Company had agreed to compensate Clarios should either Stephen Clarke, the Company’s then current chief executive officer, or Selwyn Mould, the Company’s then current chief operating officer, no longer hold such positions or no longer devote substantially all of their business time and attention to the Company, whether as a result of resignation, death, disability or otherwise (such an event referred to as a “key-man event”). The Company has agreed to pay Clarios $1.0 million per occurrence, if either officer is subject to a key-man event during the 18 months following February 7, 2017. The Company also agreed to pay Clarios $1.0 million if either or both key-man events occur after 18 months and prior to 30 months following February 7, 2017. Pursuant to the agreement, if Clarios, in its sole and absolute discretion, agrees with the Company on mutually acceptable replacements for Dr. Clarke and/or Mr. Mould, as the case may be, the key-man penalties shall be deemed waived by Clarios. In connection with the resignations by Dr. Clarke and Mr. Mould described above, Clarios has submitted to the Company its claim for payment of the key-man penalties in the total amount of $2.0 million. We agreed to settle the Clarios Key-man penalty claim through our issuance of 807,436 shares of our common stock, which we issued in June 2019.
Beginning on December 15, 2017, three purported class action lawsuits were filed in the United Stated District Court for the Northern District California against us, Stephen Clarke, Thomas Murphy and Mark Weinswig. On March 23, 2018, the cases were consolidated under the caption In Re: Aqua Metals, Inc. Securities Litigation Case No 3:17-cv-07142. On May 23, 2018,
the Court appointed lead plaintiffs and approved counsel for the lead plaintiffs. On July 20, 2018, the lead plaintiffs filed a consolidated amended complaint (“Amended Complaint”), on behalf of a class of persons who purchased our securities between May 19, 2016 and November 9, 2017, against us, Stephen Clarke, Thomas Murphy and Selwyn Mould. The Amended Complaint alleges the defendants made false and misleading statements concerning our lead recycling operations in violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder and seeks to hold the individual defendants as control persons pursuant to Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act. The Amended Complaint also alleges a violation of Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) based on alleged false and misleading statements concerning our lead recycling operations contained in, or incorporated by reference in, our Registration Statement on Form S-3 filed in connection with our November 2016 public offering. That claim is asserted on behalf of a class of persons who purchased shares pursuant to, or that are traceable to, that Registration Statement. The Amended Complaint seeks to hold the individual defendants liable as control persons pursuant to Section 15 of the Securities Act. The Amended Complaint seeks unspecified damages and plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs. On September 18, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety and the plaintiff subsequently filed its opposition to the motion. In an Order dated August 14, 2019, the Court granted in part, and denied in part, the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The Court granted the motion to dismiss the Securities Act Section 11 claim and the Exchange Act Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 claim based on alleged false and misleading statements and gave the plaintiffs leave to amend to address the deficiencies. The Court denied the motion to dismiss the Exchange Act Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 claims regarding site visits. On September 20, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint that dropped the Securities Act Section 11 claim but otherwise alleges the same claims as were alleged previously. The Second Amended Complaint seeks unspecified damages and plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs. On November 1, 2019, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Exchange Act Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 claims in the Second Amended Complaint based on alleged false and misleading statements, but not the claims regarding site visits. The motion is under consideration by the Court. We deny that the claims in the Second Amended Complaint have any merit and we intend to vigorously defend the action.
Beginning on February 2, 2018, five purported shareholder derivative actions were filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware against us and certain of our current and former executive officers and directors, Stephen R. Clarke, Selwyn Mould, Thomas Murphy, Mark Weinswig, Vincent DiVito, Mark Slade and Mark Stevenson. On May 3, 2018, the cases were consolidated under the caption In re Aqua Metals, Inc. Stockholder Derivative Litigation, Case No. 1:18-cv-00201-LPS (D. Del.). The complaints were filed by persons claiming to be stockholders of Aqua Metals and generally allege that certain of our officers and directors breached their fiduciary duties to us by violating the federal securities laws and exposing us to possible financial liability. The complaints seek unspecified damages and plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs. The parties have entered into a stipulation staying the action until 30 days after a decision on our motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint in the class action described above. The individual defendants deny that the claims in the shareholder derivative action have any merit and intend to vigorously defend the action.
A former employee has filed a complaint with Nevada OSHA claiming that he was wrongfully terminated for his protected activities related to safety. The matter is in the investigation stage where OSHA is gathering facts related to the employee’s claim. We are contesting the allegations by the employee. An evaluation of the likelihood of an unfavorable outcome cannot be made at this time.We are not party to any other legal proceedings. We may, from time to time, be party to litigation and subject to claims incident to the ordinary course of business. As our growth continues, we may become party to an increasing number of litigation matters and claims. The outcome of litigation and claims cannot be predicted with certainty, and the resolution of any future matters could materially affect our future financial position, results of operations or cash flows.
The entire disclosure for commitments and contingencies.
Reference 1: http://fasb.org/us-gaap/role/ref/legacyRef