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Paschi Stock Moves Studied by Italy’s Securities Watchdog

Banca Monte Dei Paschi Di Siena SpA Headquarters
A statue of Sallustio Bandini stands in Piazza Salimbeni outside the headquarters of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA in Siena. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Italy’s securities regulator Consob and the country’s finance police are looking into trading this month in shares of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, the bank’s biggest shareholder said yesterday.

Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena said an inspection started yesterday, focusing on the formal and informal talks that led to its sale of 1.4 billion shares in the bank March 18, as well as probing transactions in the shares this month. It’s cooperating fully with the authorities, it said in a statement.

Consob, based in Rome, is focusing on the stock’s trading on and around March 5 and March 18 amid allegations of market manipulation, one person with direct knowledge of the inquiry said earlier yesterday. Consob and the finance police are carrying out on-site inspections that may last several days, the person said.

Monte Paschi shares jumped the most on record on March 5, gaining 19 percent, amid speculation that the foundation had sold a stake in Italy’s third-biggest bank to a foreign fund. Fondazione denied the sale the following day and completed an offering of 12 percent in the bank on March 18, reducing its holding to 15 percent.

The foundation reported further sales in a separate statement yesterday, saying it sold a total of 358.5 million shares on March 19, March 20 and March 24.

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