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Soros Insider Trading Case to Be Reviewed by Court

Billionaire investor George Soros
Billionaire investor George Soros turned to the human rights tribunal after he lost his appeal to Cour de Cassation, France’s highest appeals court, which quashed the fine while upholding the conviction. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Billionaire investor George Soros won a bid to have the European Court of Human Rights review his 2002 French conviction over insider-trading of shares in Societe Generale SA.

The human rights assembly notified Soros, 80, that it will not hold a hearing and will rule on the complaint based on submissions by the parties, Ron Soffer, a Paris-based attorney for Soros, said in a telephone interview.

“We hope that the court will issue a final ruling in the same spirit and are certain that the conviction will be overturned as a result,” said Soffer, who’s working on the complaint with London lawyer Anthony Lester.

Soros was convicted of insider trading and ordered to repay 2.2 million euros ($2.9 million) he’d made from the 1988 shares purchase after a Paris court found he’d acted with the knowledge that the bank might be a takeover target.

Soros turned to the human rights tribunal in December 2006 after he lost his appeal to the Cour de Cassation, France’s top court, which quashed the fine while upholding the conviction. Soros claims the law was vague and that prosecutors took too long to bring him to trial.

Soros’s complaint concerning the clarity of the French rules at the time “raises serious questions of fact and law” and requires “a thorough examination,” the Strasbourg-based human rights court said in an e-mailed statement.

Too Unclear

French stock market regulators didn’t pursue Soros, saying insider trading laws were too unclear to determine whether he’d broken them.

“When the authorities in charge of the stock exchange consider officially that the law is not sufficiently clear, the citizen cannot be expected to have a better understanding of the law than the authorities,” Soffer said.

The human rights court can judge if the defendants’ human rights were respected. If he wins in Strasbourg, Soros could ask for a new trial.

The defense and prosecution agreed at the trials that Soros was aware of a pending stock market raid on Societe Generale when he bought the shares. They disagreed on whether the information was precise and confidential enough to be insider trading.

The French government sold Societe Generale in June 1987 at 407 French francs, (then $63) a share. A year later, after a stock market crash, the shares had fallen to 260 francs.

In September 1988, Paris-based financier Georges Pebereau sounded out about 20 investors, including an adviser to Soros, about joining him in building a stake in the bank, according to the case presented.

Soros, who never spoke directly to Pebereau about the investment, declined to take part in the operation. His Quantum Fund that month spent $50 million to buy 160,000 shares of Societe Generale as well as shares in three other companies the French government had sold and whose stock had tumbled.

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