Ex-Santander Aide Cleared of Insider Trading by Spanish Court

A former aide to Banco Santander SA (SAN)’s ex-Chief Executive Officer Alfredo Saenz was cleared by Spanish judges of insider trading ahead of BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP)’s 2010 takeover bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc.

Judges at the National Court in Madrid said there was no proof that Cedric Canas Maillard, 40, used inside information to reap profits of more than 600,000 euros ($813,000), according to a ruling dated Jan. 15 and sent by e-mail today. The court also cleared his friend Julio Marin Ugedo, 42, of responsibility in the case.

Canas Maillard, who was an executive adviser to Saenz, was aware that Spain’s biggest bank was preparing financing for BHP Billiton in an operation codenamed “Porcupine” by the bank even though he was not on a list of 53 employees that knew of it, according to the ruling. Still, the court said there was no proof that information provided by BHP Billiton to Santander in order to study financing a possible bid for Potash Corp. amounted to privileged information.

Spanish prosecutors had sought penalties of as long as 3 1/2 years in jail and fines of 1.74 million euros for abusing privileged information and money laundering, according to the ruling. The Securities and Exchange Commission also sued the pair in the U.S. in July.

Expert opinion cited in the Spanish ruling argued that Santander’s role in the case was to propose financing and not to take part in BHP Billiton’s decision to make a bid.

Marin Ugedo invested 117,000 euros in Potash Corp. securities about the same time as his friend in August 2010, according to the court. He made a profit of more than 34,000 euros by selling them about a week later, the court said.

Santander fired Canas Maillard in January 2011 and paid him an indemnity of 130,000 euros, according to the ruling.

A spokeswoman for Santander in Madrid declined to comment on the court decision. She said the lender doesn’t have contact details for Canas Maillard. The prosecutor’s office in Madrid didn’t answer calls seeking comment on the case.

To contact the reporter on this story: Charles Penty in Madrid at cpenty@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

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