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Vivendi and its former boss fined

Date Class
7th Dec 2004 Fraud Investigation
Vivendi Universal and its former chief executive Jean-Marie Messier have each been fined 1m euros ($1.3m; 690,000) by French regulators.

The fines come after a 15-month probe into allegations the media giant misled investors after a costly acquisition program went wrong.

France's market watchdog AMF said Mr Messier had "deceived the public". Vivendi almost went bust two years ago because of overspending, and then tried to hide the shortfall in its accounts.

The AMF cleared former Vivendi finance director and close Messier aide Guillaume Hannezo of any wrongdoing. Mr Messier's lawyer immediately said he would appeal and called the fine "disproportionate" and "gratuitously spectacular".

Vivendi said that it was reviewing its options but that it took issue with some details of the 24-page finding.

The AMF launched its investigation last year following allegations that Vivendi had misused accounting techniques surrounding the consolidation of its telecommunications subsidiaries and misled markets over its cash flow.

It said Mr Messier had "deliberately issued in the company's name inexact and falsely optimistic information on the consolidation of Telco and (Vivendi's) debts, cash flow and outlook" between October 2000 and April 2002.

In addition to deceiving the public, the AMF said Mr Messier, who was replaced in mid-2002, had "prejudiced the interests of shareholders".

Before Mr Messier over-extended Vivendi, he transformed the group from its old utilities base into a media and technologies business. He denies the charges.




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