AP2008

Prosecutors ditch charges against Fortis execs

Belgian prosecutors have decided to drop charges against seven former executives at Fortis, the high street bank that collapsed on the cusp of the global financial crisis in 2008.

Fortis supremos Maurice Lippens and Jean-Paul Votron will now not have to face a trial.  Prosecutors say that proving fraud would be too difficult.

After the collapse of Fortis Brussels prosecutors opened an investigation into possible attempts to mislead investors.  Five years later it decided to prosecute seven leading Fortis figures including former chairman Lippens and former CEO Votron, his successor Herman Verwilst, former financial director Gilbert Mittler as well as Filip Dierckx, Reginald De Gols and Lars Machenil. Charges included misleading investors during the 2007 capital enhancement because a gloss was allegedly put on the bank's performance. It was argued investors were told too late in the day of the exposure to the sub-prime market of US junk mortgages that triggered the global crisis.  Suspects were charged with fraud, misleading investors and failing to provide investors with sufficient information.

Ten years on prosecutors maintain that there is insufficient evidence to prove these charges in court.  "It's hard to prove too optimistic information was handed to investors on purpose" says Ine Van Wymersch of Brussels prosecutors.

Compensation for victims has always been the priority.  There are now indications from the Netherlands that Belgian victims will be compensated by Fortis successor Ageas.

Prosecutors also point to earlier court rulings that said Fortis didn't make mistakes in its communication to investors.