The French trial for Vivendi’s shareholder securities fraud lawsuit is expected to kick off early next year. The commercial court of Paris had initially set a Dec. 8 trial date, but will soon announce a new date that could potentially fall in January, Variety has learned.
Vivendi, the Paris-based parent company of Universal Music Group and Canal Plus Group, will be facing 71 international shareholders who assert claims of approximately $1.2 billion.
The alleged fraud occurred in 2000 and 2001 when Vivendi was being led by CEO Jean-Marie Messier, the flamboyant businessman who nearly bankrupted the company after a series of debt-fuelled acquisitions, notably Canal Plus and the $46 billion takeover of Seagram, then the owner of Universal Music and Universal Studios.
Vivendi previously faced a securities class action litigation in the U.S. in 2002, which resulted in a trial victory for the shareholders in 2010. Vivendi was found guilty of hiding the true state of its financial health and liquidity problems and was ordered to pay $78 million. Vivendi appealed the verdict but lost again.
The shareholder securities fraud lawsuit in France involves large public pension funds, mutual funds and international asset managers in the U.K., Germany and U.S., as well as Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Spain, among other countries.
Messier, who was forced to resign from Vivendi in 2002, was put on trial in France in 2011, and was found guilty of misappropriation of company funds and divulging misleading information when he headed Vivendi.
He appealed the decision, and in 2014, the court overturned Messier’s conviction on charges of misleading investors, only upholding the charges for misuse of corporate funds.