Vivendi SA (VIV) and Jean-Marie Messier are being sued for 644.5 million euros ($818 million) in Paris for misleading investors between 2000 and 2002, a lawyer for the claimants said.
The suit, filed by 67 investors at the commercial tribunal in Paris on April 27, claims the company and the former CEO improperly inflated the value of its shares, Ron Soffer, a Paris-based attorney, said today.
Vivendi won a U.S. court ruling in 2011 that limited the scope of an earlier group securities-fraud verdict against the company to holders of Vivendi’s American depositary receipts. That ruling applied a U.S Supreme Court decision that said the court didn’t have jurisdiction in the action.
“Now that the reach of the U.S. class-action mechanism has been seriously limited by the Supreme Court securities litigation, courts in France and other European jurisdictions will see more of this type of action being brought,” Soffer, of law firm Cabinet Soffer, said in a phone interview.
A Manhattan jury in 2010 found that Vivendi misled shareholders about its financial health 57 times from 2000 to 2002. Lawyers for the investors claimed at the time that damages to the entire shareholders’ class totaled $9.3 billion.
A June hearing has been scheduled in Paris to set a deadline for Vivendi to respond to the claims, Soffer said. Solange Maulini, a spokeswoman for the Paris-based company, declined to comment.
The claim was acknowledged in the company’s first quarter earnings statement, dated May 14.
“On April 27, 2012, sixty-seven institutional foreign investors filed a complaint against Vivendi and Jean-Marie Messier before the Paris Commercial Court seeking damages for losses they allegedly incurred as a result of the financial communications made by Vivendi and its former leader, between 2000 and 2002,” the report said.
Vivendi agreed in 2003 to pay $50 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accusations of civil fraud, and Messier agreed to pay a $1 million fine. Messier’s bid to overturn a previous a court decision to fine him 150,000 euros for misleading investors during his tenure as chief executive is scheduled to be heard at a Paris appeals court next year.
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