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Nestle Fined as Court Rules Food Company Spied on Activist Group

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Nestle SA and Securitas AG must pay about $29,000 to Attac in Switzerland after a court found that the companies illegally infiltrated and spied on the anti-free-market group 10 years ago.

The civil lawsuit was filed by Attac, which claimed Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle and Securitas AG, a Swiss security company unrelated to Securitas AB, infiltrated the activist group in 2003, according to a statement on Attac’s Swiss website.

“We have taken note of the judge’s decision regarding Attac’s civil complaint with disappointment,” Robin Tickle, a spokesman for Nestle, said in an e-mailed statement. “Incitement to infiltration is against Nestle’s business principles,” and the Swiss company will take “appropriate action” if a Nestle employee has acted “negligently.”

Attac said it filed both criminal and civil cases after a Swiss television report in 2008 said the group had been infiltrated by a Securitas employee on behalf of Nestle as it was preparing a book on the food company. The court on Jan. 25 ruled that Nestle and the security company should pay 3,000 Swiss francs ($3,300) to each of the claimants involved. The criminal case was dropped in 2009, Attac said.

“It’s not very positive for Nestle’s reputation overall, but it has been several years and nothing new, so overall not a big issue for the company,” said Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst at Bank Vontobel in Zurich. “The reported fine puts things in perspective as well.”

Attac, the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens, was founded in Paris in 1998 and now has branches in about 40 countries. The network aims to develop social, ecological and democratic alternatives to “neo-liberal globalization,” according to its website.

Securitas AG is not part of Securitas AB, which owns Protectas in Switzerland, according to a Securitas AB website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dermot Doherty in Geneva at ddoherty9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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