Jean-Marie Messier and Edgar Bronfman Jr., who escaped criminal guilty verdicts in America, where found guilty by a French court and had fines imposed upon them. The court cases stemmed from Messier’s spending spree while he was CEO of Vivendi. While CEO, Messier directed the acquisition of numerous companies, including Universal Studios, and Seagrams. One of the companies that was acquired by Vivendi, as part of the Sierra Home division in America, was Heritage Quest.
I was working for Heritage Quest when the acquisition took place. My world changed immediately, leaving a life of travel and lecturing to move to the Salt Lake City, Utah area where I went to work as Vice President of Publishing for Heritage Quest. This started a most interesting 2-year period of my life, working for a major corporation that was losing more money than I’d ever heard of…
As for Jean-Marie Messier, I thought that the man had an over-sized ego, seemed to want to chum with the rich and famous a bit too much, and thought he could do no wrong when it came to building a multi-national corporation. However, the losses ran into 25 and 30 billion dollars per year. I realize that in today’s world this sounds like chump change, but in 2002 folks seemed to think that this was real money being lost.
Following is a teaser from an article found at the Businessweek website:
Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) — Jean-Marie Messier and Edgar Bronfman Jr. must pay fines instead of going to jail for criminal charges related to Vivendi SA’s near-bankruptcy after a $77 billion acquisition spree while they led the company.
Messier was fined 150,000 euros ($200,000) and Bronfman 5 million euros by a three-judge panel yesterday. Neither was sentenced to jail time. Messier, 54, was found guilty of misleading investors during his tenure as Vivendi’s chief executive officer. Bronfman, also 54, was found to have traded on inside information while vice chairman.
“On the points that were important to the rise in the Vivendi Universal shares,” Messier made “statements of a nature to mislead investors,” the judges wrote in their decision. Messier also “had awarded to himself, while the company was in grave difficulty, very large amounts, of a type to exacerbate its financial problems.”
The conviction diverges from a civil jury verdict in a New York shareholder class-action lawsuit last January. That ruling cleared Messier and former chief financial officer Guillaume Hannezo of misleading investors and held the company solely responsible for the conduct.
“It is, in fact, a pretty low standard of proof that is required in French criminal courts,” said Stephane Bonifassi, a white-collar criminal lawyer who isn’t involved in the case. In France “you can get caught in criminal cases in things that would hardly be considered criminal elsewhere.”