Viv U awash in legal woes

AMF goes after conglom, execs

While probes continue into the alleged financial misdeeds of ousted Vivendi Universal topper Jean-Marie Messier — fined $1.3 million recently for misleading shareholders bythe AMF, France’s equivalent of the SEC — the finger of suspicion is now pointing at current management, namely chairman Jean- Rene Fourtou and Jean-Bernard Levy.

Strangers to scandal before being hired to run the French conglom, the two men now face disciplinary action by the AMF after an investigation into a bond issue.

Levy is poised to inherit the chairmanship of the company when Fourtou steps aside to a supervisory role in a few months’ time.

The AMF also has begun disciplinary proceedings against the conglom itself and Deutsche Bank, the bank that handled the bond issue.

The AMF claims Viv U was party to two pieces of privileged information — Marvin Davis’ offer to buy Universal, and the probability that Viv U would exercise preemptive rights to up its stake in the French telco Cegetel — when it issued exchangeable bonds in November 2002.

The information could have affected the price investors were prepared to pay for the bonds, the AMF asserts.

Viv U has strongly denied the charges.