Liu contends that the investors named in the complaint were simply backing the company through an "investment club" that involved pooling their savings for occasional online trades.
"It's not like in the U.S., where when an investor wants to buy or sell he goes to the bank or does it online. In China they tell the person in charge of handling the trades who wants to sell and who wants to buy. He does the transactions for them," she said.
At the heart of AutoChina's troubles, Li said, were difficulties over getting its former auditor PriceWaterhouse Coopers to approve its 2010 financial reports. Eventually AutoChina replaced PwC with another U.S. auditor, but by the time it filed its earnings, it was due to be delisted.
"We appealed, but without any explanation at all they said they would not allow us to continue to be listed. Is that transparent? Why did my company have to delist? Up to now nobody has explained it," Li said, his frustration showing through his calm, soft-spoken demeanor.
Some of the short-sellers' accusations were false, AutoChina contends. However, the company did respond to complaints over an "earn-out" in its share listing that awarded shares to Li, thus diluting the value of holdings of existing shareholders, by cancelling that provision.
PwC did not respond to a written request for comment on the case. The SEC also has not responded to an emailed request for comment.
While waiting for the case to go to court, Li said he is busy expanding AutoChina's insurance business and other services.
"My intention is to build up a vehicle-leasing 'McDonalds,'" he said.
But the barrage of questions over Chinese company shares is discouraging mainland companies from attempting listings. Many are opting to go private, or to reconsider listing in Hong Kong or other overseas markets.
"We considered whether to list in China, in Hong Kong or in the U.S. I thought that America would be the most open, most just and most transparent environment, the most favorable for business. Now, I believe that is not the case," Li said. "If I were to have another chance, I probably would not choose this route."
Researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report.
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