Fortis investors seek damages from group, Dutch state
AMSTERDAM/BRUSSELS, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Shareholders of Fortis (News/Aktienkurs) are seeking damages from the Belgian-Dutch financial services group, the Dutch state and others after the firm was broken up earlier this month, lawyers said on Friday.
'We are getting thousands of e-mails from shareholders who lost money, deeply saddening e-mails. Between September 28 and October 3 investors have been misled,' said lawyer Adriaan de Gier, whose firm has set up a foundation to seek damages.
The foundation, called FortisEffect, represents about 10,000 owners of Fortis shares, bonds and options and is seeking damages from Fortis Holding, Fortis Netherlands, its executives, the Dutch and Belgian governments, and supervisors such as the Dutch and Belgian central banks.
On Sept. 28, the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg announced a partial nationalisation of Fortis, but in the following days they renegotiated a breakup of the group, which wiped out 11 billion euros ($14.8 billion) in market value, De Gier said.
A Fortis spokeswoman said she was aware of the demands but declined to comment. The Dutch Finance Ministry could not immediately comment.
A cash drain at Fortis was the reason for the Fortis rescue and breakup, which saw French rival BNP Paribas end up with controlling stakes in Fortis Belgium and Luxembourg.
Damages could be higher than 11 billion euros because De Gier is also seeking compensation for bond holders who invested 5 billion euros in Fortis last year, the lawyer said.
Separately, Dutch lawyer Hendrik Jan Bos wants to get damages for about 10 small Fortis shareholders and sue former Fortis top executives who have resigned in the last four months.
Damages could be a few million euros, Bos estimated.
He wants to sue chairman Maurice Lippens, Chief Executive Jean-Paul Votron and Chief Financial Officer Gilbert Mittler for unexpectedly issuing shares in June after Fortis had previously said a capital raising was not needed.
In Belgium, consumer group Dolor Vzw filed a court complaint earlier this week, fighting what it said was unequal treatment of Fortis shareholders as the Belgian state has excluded some investors from receiving profits which the state makes on its Fortis investment.
Euroshareholders, a European umbrella group for national small investor associations, will launch a legal challenge in the next two weeks against Fortis as it wants to know if Fortis investors have been treated fairly or misled.
Dutch shareholders group VEB and its Belgian counterpart Deminor on Monday started a case at the Dutch commercial court in which they asked whether the plan initiated by the Benelux governments to rescue Fortis mistreated shareholders and whether investors got adequate information.
(Editing by Andrew Callus) ($1=.7424 Euro) Keywords: FORTIS/