Investors seek $1.2 billion in damages from Vivendi in fraud lawsuit

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FILE PHOTO: French media giant Vivendi's logo in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) – A group of investors will urge a French court on Tuesday to back its claim for 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in damages from Vivendi, alleging the media giant made false financial statements during a merger deal two decades ago.

In their lawsuit, the 90 investors, represented by law firm Soffer Avocats, allege top executives at the time failed to fully disclose the extent of Vivendi’s debt as the group oversaw a $46 billion three-way tie-up with Seagram Co and Canal Plus.

Vivendi’s boss at the time was Jean-Marie Messier.

“The investor group contends that Messier and other Vivendi executives presented fake financials to conceal the existence of a severe liquidity crisis at the company,” a spokesman for the investors’ group said in a written statement.

Vivendi’s lawyer told Reuters the claim was groundless, citing a previous decision by a French criminal court that ruled Messier and other Vivendi executives didn’t issue false information at the time.

“This case has already been judged several times in France, in particular by the criminal judge, who ruled out that Vivendi issued any false information,” said Hervé Pisani, managing partner of Freshfields in Paris.

The case will be heard at Paris’s commercial court from 1300 GMT. The court can take several weeks or months before announcing a decision.

($1 = 0.8435 euros)

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain. Editing by Mark Potter)

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