BofA’s Merrill Wins Court Ruling Against Amorim on Saipem Shares

Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit won a lawsuit against a Portuguese investment firm over a disputed share sale that’s the subject of an Italian market-abuse probe.

Amorim Partners Ltd. won’t be able to defend its decision not to pay for 150,000 Saipem SpA (SPM) shares it agreed to buy from Merrill in Jan. 2013, Judge Nicholas Hamblen said today in granting the bank’s request for an early ruling, without the need for a trial.

Amorim, a family-owned investment firm, said it was misled by the bank when Saipem issued a profit warning the day after the deal. Hamblen said the bank’s evidence was that its employees didn’t know about the impending profit warning, and it had held an internal review that didn’t uncover any impropriety.

“One can well understand Amorim’s concern,” Hamblen said. However its case has “no real prospect of success.”

Italy’s securities regulator, Consob, is investigating the sale of almost 10 million shares in Saipem days before the Milan-based oil and gas company announced its earnings would be less than half the amount expected. BlackRock Inc. (BLK) said on Jan. 11 that one of its fund managers, Nigel Bolton, is facing a civil suit by Consob alleging he used non-public information to escape losses. BlackRock denies any wrongdoing.

John McIvor, a spokesman for Bank of America, declined to comment. Benjamin Guez, an employee at Amorim, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The case is: Merrill Lynch International v. Amorim Partners Limited, case no. 13-251, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial Court.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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