BofA Wins Ruling Against Amorim Over Saipem Share Sale

Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit won a lawsuit against a Portuguese investment firm that refused to pay for shares of oil and gas engineer Saipem SpA, the sale of which is the subject of an Italian market-abuse probe.

Amorim Partners Ltd. must pay for the 150,000 Saipem shares it agreed to buy from Merrill in January 2013, Judge Nicholas Hamblen said today in London, granting the bank’s request for an early ruling without trial.

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

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

Italian securities regulator Consob is investigating the sale of almost 10 million shares in Saipem days before the company announced its earnings would be less than half the amount expected.


BlackRock Inc. said Jan. 11 that one of its fund managers, Nigel Bolton, faces a lawsuit by Consob alleging he used non-public information to escape losses. New York-based BlackRock has denied any wrongdoing.

John McIvor, a spokesman for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, declined to comment. Amorim said today in an e-mailed statement that it’s disappointed in the ruling and may appeal.

“It is not surprising that MLI has sought to close off AP’s defense before any trial can take place that would raise serious questions in public about what happened,,’ the firm said. ‘‘We will consider an appeal because AP should be allowed to defend this claim over a trade that is subject to a regulatory investigation.”

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

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