Parmalat Prosecutors Seek Bank Charges

Separately, the dairy-foods company has filed its own complaint charging Standard & Poor’s with wrongdoing relating to Parmalat's $17 billion collapse.

Milan prosecutors have asked a judge to charge several global banks and securities firms for their alleged role in helping dairy company Parmalat SpA mislead investors about its financials, Reuters reported.

The request for indictments reportedly targets the Italian unit of Citigroup Inc., the Italian and British arms of Deutsche Bank AG, and the London and Milan units of Morgan Stanley, people familiar with the matter told the paper. Spokespeople for all three banks declined to comment for an earlier Wall Street Journal story.

The British unit of Swiss bank UBS and Nextra, the asset-management arm of Banca Intesa, as well as 13 individuals connected to all the institutions involved, were also reportedly sought in the indictment request. The companies face potential penalties that include fines and temporary closure.

A UBS spokesperson told the Journal that the bank hadn’t received notification of any planned charges and had no evidence of any wrongdoing by the bank concerning Parmalat. Nextra declined comment to Reuters.

Parmalat has brought charges of its own. The company filed a legal complaint with prosecutors earlier this month charging Standard & Poor’s of giving it a credit rating that failed to reflect the dire state of its financials, an unnamed source told Reuters. S&P declined comment.

Parmalat collapsed in a $17 billion corporate-fraud scandal in late 2003. Last month, three former CFOs of the company were among 11 people to receive prison terms ranging from 10 months to two-and-a-half years for their roles in the debacle. The company is expected to relist later this year after a 12 billion euro debt-for-equity swap, according to Reuters. Several of the banks targeted by prosecutors would be shareholders.

Reuters notes that the move to indict the banks and individuals was expected, since prosecutors named them in March in connection with a probe. Prosecutors are reportedly accusing the 13 executives with breaching Italian market-rigging laws, which carries a jail sentence of up to five years. One of those named is an employee of Credit Suisse First Boston, says Reuters, and the rest are employed by the named banks. The company declined to comment on the matter.

Hearings on the prosecutors’ request for a trial are slated to being in September, according to the news service. Three executives at the Italian branch of Bank of America, a former Parmalat chairman, and two partners with the Italian unit of Deloitte & Touche have already been ordered to stand trial.

Prosecutors think that the people they want indicted misled Parmalat stock and bond investors, according to the Journal. The prosecutors will argue that their financial-services employers didn’t have the adequate controls in place to prevent the alleged violations, the paper reported.

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