Vivendi Chief Cleared Of Insider Trading

Vivendi chief Jean-René Fourtou has been cleared of insider trading by the country’s financial watchdog.

Having originally suggested that Fourtou and Jean-Bernard Lévy, who succeeded him as chief exec later in 2005, had benefited from insider information when investing about euro 20 million (US$25 million) in the telecommunications and media group’s November 2002 bonds issue, the Autorité Des Marchés Financiers (AMF) has now decided that they didn’t break any rules.

When the enquiry began at the beginning of 2005, the AMF had said that – at the time of the bond issue – both Fourtou and Lévy knew about an offer for the group’s U.S. businesses from American oil billionaire Marvin Davis.

The decision clears up an affair that has hung over both executives for four years, preventing the company from closing the book on the controversial reign of former chief exec Jean-Marie Messier.

His time in charge had resulted in the company plunging into debt of euro 35 billion, while he was coming under investigation for alleged stock market manipulation, false accounting and fraud.

He’d been forced to resign July 2002 when the board discovered the company was on the brink of a cash crisis triggered in part by billions of dollars of secret stock repurchases that had been designed to prop up Vivendi’s share price.

The country’s major newspapers considered his departure as the end of one of the most embarrassing chapters in French corporate history.

– John Gammon