Agency audit tough on Messier, exex

PARIS — Vivendi Universal’s small shareholders are waiting to see if lightning strikes twice in seven days when the Commission des Operations de Bourse (COB) this week publishes its audit of Viv U’s financial dealings between January 2001 and June 2002.

Small shareholders org Appac wants to know whether the COB report will corroborate a damning internal Viv U audit made public on Friday.

The internal report comes down hard on former Viv U prexy Jean-Marie Messier and four senior executives who bought Viv U stock options in December 2001 at $54.22 each and sold them straight on at $65.07.

Messier’s onetime chief financial officer Guillaume Hannezo made a $1.41 million profit on his stock options. Hannezo denies wrongdoing, maintaining that he worked within recent changes made in French tax laws.

Report also questions why Messier continued drawing a salary after his exit on July 3 and sheds light on two Viv U communiques that were mislaid in June when they would have made clear the company’s parlous financial situation.

Meanwhile, Viv U’s incumbent prexy Jean-Rene Fourtou is under pressure from Appac to explain why this latest information was not made available to shareholders through the proper channels before it was made public.

For the moment Fourtou maintains as he always has: “We have detected no foul play at Vivendi Universal,” he said.

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