Taxpayer to pay for delay in Fortis sale?

The public prosecutor is demanding that the Court of Cassation quashes the ruling in the 2008 Fortis case. The ruling suspended the sale of Belgium's ailing Fortis Bank to BNP Paribas of France.

 

The public prosecutor argues that the Fortis ruling should be set aside because a procedural mistake was made.

 

The public prosecutor is backing Fortis Holding, the Belgian state and BNP Paribas that earlier took the matter to the Court of Cassation.

A ruling in this case is expected in February.

The initial ruling that suspended the sale of Fortis banking activities to the French could have put the entire deal in jeopardy. A meeting of Fortis shareholders was called in April and they voted through the sale.

Even though the Fortis sale went ahead the Belgian state, Fortis holding (the former owners of Fortis banking activities) and BNP Paribas took the matter to the Court of Cassation.

If the Court of Cassation quashes the initial ruling, this will be a further blow for the already pretty damaged reputation of the Belgian judiciary. It will be the second time that in this case a Belgian magistrate is seen to have made an important mistake.

The new ruling may have important financial ramifications. Fortis Holding suffered losses worth 295 million euros as a result of the ruling that suspended the sale. Fortis Holding was obliged to sell of some of its assets and had to pay for two extra shareholders meetings.

The holding that is now restricted to insurance activities could try and recoup this money from the Belgian state and the taxpayer.