Messier files suit against Le Monde

Former conglom chairman takes exception to audit story

PARIS — Ousted Vivendi Universal chief Jean-Marie Messier is suing the French daily Le Monde for defamation, he announced Thursday.

The former conglom chairman took exception to an article published on Tuesday that alleges he put “strong pressure” on auditors to present Viv U’s accounts in a more favorable light and reduce the $13 billion loss that the conglom subsequently posted.

To support its allegation, Le Monde published emails sent by Messier to the external auditing firm Salustro-Reydel at the time that Viv U was disposing of its stake in BSky B.

Messier’s laywer Oliver Metzner said the published missives “showed, on the contrary, that (Messier) was not concerned about the choice of accounting method so long as it provided a clear and rapid position for the quality and transparency of Vivendi Universal’s accounts.”

In another twist, Salustro-Reydel said it was going to take legal action over Le Monde’s publication of the “blatantly erroneous” claims of a former employee that were in breach of professional secrecy codes. Meanwhile, Vivendi Universal’s plans to sell off its publishing division also continued to be a source of Gallic concern Thursday. French culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon said it would be contrary to the interests of French culture for the division to be sold to a U.S. pension fund or corporate raider.

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