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July 1-15, 2004 Edition
Paris Police Detain
for QuestioningPARIS/06/21/04Police on Monday detained Jean-Marie Messier, former CEO of the French media conglomerate, Vivendi Universal, for questioning about possible stock manipulation and distribution of false information.
He was expected to be held for 24 to 48 hours by the financial brigade, a police division specializing in white-collar crime. Messier’s lawyer, Olivier Metzner, called the move “procedural,” and said that Messier had asked for the opportunity to explain his actions and defend co-workers.
Vivendi purchased 21 million of its own shares immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Prosecutors are exploring whether French stock market rules were violated. Some stock repurchases were made during the 15 days before the publication of Vivendi results, in violation of normal French stock market rules, and some buyback transactions may have been beyond the legal limit of 25 percent of average trading volume. Messier was forced to resign as Vivendi CEO in July 2002 after a series of acquisitions left the company deeply in debt.
According to a French newspaper article, Germany’s Deutsche Bank had been asked by Vivendi to conduct transactions that were illegal under French market rules. According to the newspaper, Vivendi asked Deutsche Bank to proceed, saying the transactions were legal, but Deutsche eventually decided to stop following Vivendi’s instructions. Messier maintains he acted within the bounds of the law and in the interest of shareholders.
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